XXX

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The makers of “XXX” (pronounced “Triple X”) would have you believe the title character is the James Bond for the new millennium. I’m afraid I will have to agree with them. Old Mr. Bond’s debonair attitude has no place in the Age of Irony. Triple X could drink a gallon of martinis, shaken not stirred, then beat the crap out of the bartender just for fun.

“XXX,” unlike recent 007 films, embraces its sexism unapologetically and wallows in the physics-defying absurdity of its action sequences. Not one bit of “XXX” should be be taken seriously, but taken on the level of a testosterone-drenched amusement-park ride, it makes your inner adolescent hoot like it’s on Spring Break.

The film begins with the National Security Agency, led by Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), deciding the only way to find top-notch spies these days is to recruit hardened criminals. “They’re programmable, expendable, and they work,” Gibbons says. “I think they’re our best bet.” There is no debate; everyone agrees this is clearly the best idea.

(I was going to laugh at the movie for using a ridiculous spy-movie name like “Augustus Gibbons,” until I realized the star is someone who thinks his name is “Vin Diesel.”)

Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), an extreme-sports enthusiast with a couple strikes against his criminal record, is among the parolees tested by the NSA. Naturally, Cage exhibits extraordinary observation and survival skills, making him the perfect candidate for spyhood. Since it’s either this or go to jail, he agrees to help Uncle Sam stop a ring of European anarchists who are about to unleash a nerve agent on the world’s major cities.

Cage has three X’s tattooed on the back of his neck. Whether being called “Triple X” led to the tattoo, or whether the tattoo led to his being called “Triple X,” the movie does not say. Like the initial premise of bad guys being turned into secret agents, it is something that simply IS. You accept it as you accept the sets and the costumes and the music, or as you accept there being a motorcycle handy when Cage needs it, or that there will always be a slanted surface nearby that can serve as a jumping ramp.

Because the plot and its complications are strictly standard, “XXX” focuses on image and personality instead. And it has those in spades, particularly in Mr. Diesel. He does not have the acting skill of any of the men who have played James Bond, but he has charisma and attitude like nobody’s business, growling his lines in that gutteral but good-natured voice of his, and smiling as much as the audience at how cool all this stuff is. Diesel is still a novelty. Once we’ve seen him in about five more films, it will wear off. But for now — wow! Few men can wear a fur coat over a wife-beater T-shirt, as Diesel does here, and still seem cool.

“XXX” runs down the checklist of Things Guys Like. Cars drive off bridges and motorcycles get blown up solely because guys like that sort of thing. There are hot babes with whom Cage has sex. Why? Because the audience wants him to. Gadgets, fast cars, a thrash-metal soundtrack — this is the movie frat boys would make if they had money and were ever sober long enough.

Why does a movie as dumb as this one work? First, because director Rob Cohen (“Fast and the Furious”) is a proficient director of action sequences, engaging our senses without pummeling us senseless.

Second, because while the law of gravity is much abused in “XXX,” the laws of logic are not. Your average man will not find himself in a majority of the situations presented here. But if he WERE, he would react and respond approximately the way these people do. Everything in the film is improbable, but very little of it is impossible. You can watch, giggle and get an adrenaline boost without feeling like you’ve completely lowered your entertainment standards.

B (2 hrs., 4 min.; PG-13, a few profanities, a lot of action violence, some sexual innuendo, brief drug use.)

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