Will America pay to see a new action hero? When that star is Vin Diesel in the high-pitched ''XXX,'' the smart money is betting yes
Vin Diesel, Asia Argento, ...

This weekend, ”XXX” will mark the spot — the No. 1 spot, that is. After months of hype, Vin Diesel’s rock-’em, sock-’em action flick finally hits theaters and looks to be an even bigger hit than his drag-racing thriller ”The Fast and the Furious” was last year.

With Stallone, Schwarzenegger, et al seeing their careers in decline, Hollywood has been looking for a new breed of action hero, and by all accounts the studios feel the beefy, cocky Diesel is it. Thanks to films like ”Saving Private Ryan,” ”Boiler Room,” ”Pitch Black,” and ”Furious,” Diesel’s profile has been raised to the extent that he’s now carrying a film for the first time.

Even though ”XXX” hasn’t even reached audiences yet, a sequel is already planned. And for good reason: This film is packed with the kind of PG-13 action that young kids eat up. Expect ”XXX” to top the $40.1 million ”The Fast and the Furious” earned in its first weekend and debut with $50 million.

That’ll push Mel Gibson’s supernatural thriller, ”Signs,” to second place. Last week, the crop-circle drama premiered with an unbelievable $60.1 million — almost double Gibson’s personal best. A drop of 45 percent would mean a $33 million second weekend.

Close behind will likely be ”Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams.” Coming only 17 months after the first ”Spy Kids,” Robert Rodriguez’s sharp follow-up should perform similarly to the $26.5 million opening of the first film. The sequel, which opened on Wednesday, should earn about $30 million over the three-day weekend.

Another sequel, ”Austin Powers in Goldmember,” will try to hang on in the top five despite its huge 57 percent drop last week. The Mike Myers comedy could fall another 50 percent to $15 million, bringing its three-week total close to $175 million.

The week’s last new wide release is the Clint Eastwood thriller ”Blood Work,” in which Eastwood, who also directs, plays an FBI agent tracking down a serial killer. ”Blood” will try to top the poor $5.6 million opening of Eastwood’s last similar solo outing, ”True Crime.” (”Space Cowboys,” which opened much better, boasted a more audience-friendly concept and a bigger cast.) A debut in the $10 million range would certainly make his day.

Austin Powers in Goldmember
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