What xXx’s Movie Title Actually Means | Screen Rant
What’s the true meaning behind xXx’s title? In 2002, the action franchise kicked off with Vin Diesel starring as Xander Cage; however, the 2005 sequel XXX: State of the Union featured Ice Cube taking over the title role. Cage is indeed the original antihero of the xXx film series, but the name of the franchise refers to a concept rather than the character’s nickname.
xXx didn’t exactly transform Diesel into an A-list star, but it did boost his Hollywood credentials. After co-starring in the 1998 classic Saving Private Ryan, the actor headlined high-profile movies like Boiler Room, Pitch Black, and The Fast and the Furious. With a pop culture persona already in place, Diesel took it to the next level with xXx, a film about an extreme sports star recruited by the NSA to catch bad guys in Prague. The 2002 movie oozes with tough guy bravado and allows Diesel to display his comedic timing; traits that carried over into his eventual return to the Fast and Furious franchise.
In retrospect, xXx’s title may seem like it was inspired by Cage’s nickname, but it actually refers to the codename for a new breed of spy. When the Russian terrorist group Anarchy 99 kills an undercover agent, a National Security Agency leader named Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) decides to take a different approach. Rather than using government agents for reconnaissance missions, he envisions a team of dangerous individuals who have the necessary smarts and physical attributes to carry out missions. Importantly, Gibbons only recruits Xander Cage after he passes two tests that prove his character. Around the 30-minute mark, Diesel’s xXx character receives an ultimatum. He can play by the rules and maintain his lifestyle or go to prison for stealing a U.S. Senator’s vehicle. Gibbons intimidates Cage by correlating his distinctive xXx tattoo with three legal strikes that could seal his fate; auto theft, reckless endangerment, and the aforementioned extreme sports stunt.
Gibbons comes up with the xXx moniker, but Cage earns it by infiltrating Anarchy 99 and preventing the launch of a chemical weapon called “Silent Night.” xXx begins with the focal antihero spouting off to each and every enemy, but he eventually learns how to effectively play both sides. For example, Xander uses his bravado to form a friendship with Anarchy 99 leader Yorgi (Marton Csokas) and uses his charm to develop a romance with former Russian intelligence agent Yelena (Asia Argento, the daughter of horror maestro Dario Argento). Xander initially despises the American government and just wants to pursue self-serving interests, but ends up parachuting over Prague with an American flag and saving the day. Xander is merely an agent-in-training during the majority of xXx and then earns his agent moniker by eliminating the Silent Night threat.
Diesel was supposed to reprise his role in XXX: State of the Union but opted out after reading the script (which was later revised by first-time screenwriter Simon Kinberg, who would later write several X-Men films). With the original franchise lead out of the picture the producers tried an anthology approach instead, with Ice Cube becoming the next xXx agent as former U.S. Navy SEAL Darius Stone. In XXX: Return of Xander Cage, Diesel reprises his role while real-life soccer star Neymar emerges as Gibbons’ new top recruit. The character Xander Cage will always be the main hero of the xXx franchise, but the film series could continue for years without him.