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Sunday November 18th 2018

XXX | 2002

XXX location: Vranov nad Dyji State Chateau, Vranov nad Dyji, Prague
XXX location: the sniper attack on Xander in the French restaurant: Francouzska Restaurace, Obecni Dum, Námestí Republiky, Prague

Director Rob Cohen signals his intentions early on, offing a smoothly tuxedoed secret agent at a Rammstein gig. Time for a new breed of hero, as extreme sportster Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is unwillingly recruited as a superagent for the 21st century. I can’t help feeling, though, that Bond has a bit more life left in him.

XXX location: Pann's, Tynska, Starometske nam, Old Town, Prague
XXX location: the tuxedoed agent follows his target to the underground club: Tynska, Staroměstské náměstí, Old Town, Prague

This prologue, which sees the agent following a target across Prague's Staroměstské náměstí. (Old Town Square) into Tynska on the north side. The club interior though was filmed in a de-sanctified, 150-year-old church in Celna, in the eastern Czech Republic.

The film proper begins in California, where Cage demonstrates attitude with a live webcast as he steals the red Corvette of tightass Senator Dick from the country club at Westlake Village, north of Malibu. No crime of profit, of course. Cage is teaching the no-fun politician a lesson, and catapults the motor off a bridge.

It was a long drive. You’ll find Foresthill Bridge spanning the North Fork of the American River in Auburn, northeast of Sacramento, northern California. A breathtaking 728 feet above the river – plans to flood the valley were never brought to completion – allows Cage’s spectacular base jump.

XXX location: Pann's, La Tijera Boulevard, Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles
XXX location: Xander Cage faces a test from Augustus Gibbon: Pann’s Cafe, La Tijera Boulevard, Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles

Unwittingly sussed out as a potential recruit, Cage faces a test from Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L Jackson) in Pann’s Cafe, 6710 La Tijera Boulevard at La Cienega Boulevards and Centinella Avenue, in Baldwin Hills, a classic Fifties coffee shop. Built in 1958, it was restored in 1991 and is now rightly recognised as an LA landmark. You can see it again in Nora Ephron’s 2005 big screen version of TV favourite Bewitched, with Nicole Kidman.

XXX location: Pann's, La Tijera Boulevard, Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles
XXX location: Xander Cage faces a test from Augustus Gibbon: Pann’s Cafe, La Tijera Boulevard, Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles

By the way, Pann’s is not, as some people seem to believe, the cafe seen in Pulp Fiction.

The next test finds Cage facing that old favourite, a vicious Central American drug lord. The ‘Colombian’ drug plantation was built at Lake Piru, north of Los Angeles.

The real mission takes Cage to Prague, where he's lodged in an old house on Zlata, the narrow street just west of Liliova Street in Staré Mesto (the Old Town). No martinis or roulette wheels here.

XXX location: Pann's, La Tijera Boulevard, Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles
XXX location: the undercover police chief takes Xander Cage to the dubious nightclub: U Prasne Brany, Prague

Still in the Old Town, the seedy undercover police chief accompanies Cage to a nightclub for "the filthy rich and criminals", along U Prašné brány past Prašná brána (Powder Tower), one of the old gates into the city separating the Old and New Towns. This street also provided the HQ for Max (Vanessa Redgrave) in Brian de Palma's Mission: Impossible.

Cage insinuates himself into the sinister ‘Anarchy 99’, an organisation bent on the destruction of life as we know it. The front is a string of rave clubs, but you needn’t go looking for them (the Orbital techno rave was staged in an electronic testing station to the north of Prague).

XXX location: Tyl Theatre, Prague
XXX location: Cage is taken to the police HQ: Schwarzenberg Palace, Prague

The exterior of the police HQ, 'Mestska Policie Praha', the Schwarzenberský palác (Schwarzenberg Palace), Hradčanské náměstí 2, part of Prague's national Gallery near to the entrance to Prague Castle.

The interior, where Cage is kitted out by Agent Shavers – a kind of Q figure – is the vaulted basement of the abandoned Patanka Brewery.

XXX location: Vranov nad Dyji State Chateau, Vranov nad Dyji, Prague
XXX location: the fortified HQ of ‘Anarchy 99': Vranov nad Dyji State Chateau, Vranov nad Dyji, Prague | iStockphoto / Dziurek

‘Anarchy 99’s fortified HQ is real enough. It’s the Vranov nad Dyji State Chateau, 671 03 Vranov nad Dyji, in the Znojmo district (the magic of FX moves it into the mountains north of Prague). There’s been a castle on the site since 1100, though much of the present building dates from 1665, and it’s open for tours.

One place you will want to visit is the magnificent art nouveau restaurant, in which Cage reveals to Yelena (Asia Argento) he’s a secret agent. It’s the Francouzska Restaurace (French Restaurant) of the recently restored Obecni Dum (Municipal House), Námestí Republiky 5.

XXX location: Vranov nad Dyji State Chateau, Vranov nad Dyji, Prague
XXX location: the sniper attack on Xander in the French restaurant: Francouzska Restaurace, Obecni Dum, Námestí Republiky, Prague

Standing just the other side of the Powder Tower in the earlier location, the unimaginatively-named Municipal House itself is used to host conventions, concerts, balls and fashion shows.

XXX location: Vranov nad Dyji State Chateau, Vranov nad Dyji, Prague
XXX location: the sniper attack on Xander in the French restaurant: Francouzska Restaurace, Obecni Dum, Námestí Republiky, Prague

Xander is obliged to evade a sniper, supposedly perched on elaborate statuary opposite. In fact, the restaurant faces the rather plain Divadlo Hybernia (the Hybernia Theatre).

XXX location: Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic
XXX location: Cage rides down the steps on a silver tray: Ke Hradu, Mala Strana, Prague, Czech Republic

He inventively uses a waiter's silver tray as a shield before using it to ride down the handrail of an impressively long staircase. There are no hills in the Old Town. In reality, this flight of steps can be found on the other side of the River Vltava, running down from Hradčanské náměstí (Hradcany Square) to emerge on Ke Hradu in Mala Strana (Lesser Town).

XXX location: Tyl Theatre, Prague
XXX location: Xander Cage is bundled off to meet up with Gibbons: Estates Theatre, Zelezna Street, Prague

Escaping the attempt on his life, Cage is bundled off to meet up with Gibbons in the Estates Theatre (formerly the Tyl Theatre), Zelezna ulice 11 (Zelezna Street) at Havirska Street – the historic theatre that’s featured in Oscar-winning Amadeus.

XXX location: Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic
XXX location: the theatre exterior: Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic

The exterior that’s seen, though, is that of the Rudolfinium, Palachovo náměstí  1 (1 Jan Palach Square), home of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, which you might also recognise as the ‘London’ club in fantasy adventure The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

XXX location: Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic
XXX location: the climax on the Vltava River: Palacky Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

The climax is staged on the Vltava River, where stuntman Harry O’Connor was tragically killed flying into the Palacky Bridge during a retake of the parascending stunt.

Gibbons watches from Karluv Most (the Charles Bridge, seen in Mission: Impossible and Van Helsing) as Cage disarms Anarchy’s dastardly device.

Some of the stunt work was filmed elsewhere: sky surfing above Lake Tahoe, northern California; and the snowmobiles and snowboarding at Kaunertal in the Austrian Tyrol.

The tropical island on which Xander Cage and Yelena finally get to rest up is the tropical paradise of Bora Bora, Tahiti.