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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
xXx (2002)

Agent Gibbons: I want you to meet some people and find out whatever you can about them.
Xander Cage: What kind of people?
Agent Gibbons: Dirty. Dangerous. Your kind of people.

- Samuel L. Jackson, Vin Diesel

Review By: Kevin Clemons  
Published: February 03, 2003

Stars: Vin Diesel
Other Stars: Asia Argento, Marton Csokas, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Rob Cohen

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, non stop actio sequences, sensuality, drug content, and language
Run Time: 02h:4m:14s
Release Date: December 31, 2002
UPC: 043396082939
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BB+A A-

DVD Review

xXx is not so much an adrenaline-powered spy film as it is an indulgence of every single male fantasy ever imagined. Wasting no time after their smash hit, The Fast and the Furious skyrocketed to record grosses, director Rob Cohen and budding action star Vin Diesel have expertly crafted a nonstop action film that may prove to be a Bond replacement for generations with ADD.

Xander Cage (Diesel) is an extreme sports superstar, known for breaking the rules with total disregard for the consequences. When his latest stunt, which involves ramping a stolen Corvette off of a vast bridge, lands him in hot water with the authorities, his options seem limited. Spend a long time in jail, or become a trained spy, infiltrate a group of terrorists and provide information for the National Security Agency. Naturally, the choice is rather easy for Xander. Upon arriving in Prague, he is quickly introduced to Yorgi (Csokas), the leader of a rebel group that call themselves Anarchy 99. Anarchy 99 is bad news, as they have in their possession a biological weapon called Silent Night and are willing to sell it to the highest bidder. It is up to Xander to save the day while he is, at the same time, falling in love with Yelena (Argento). Oh yeah—and he has to look cool while doing so.

xXx works wonderfully as a typical summer popcorn film with big explosions and an achingly loud soundtrack, but measures taken to secure a coherent or flowing plot are largely missing. Director Cohen does a fine job of ratcheting up the action to levels that are truly stunning; the sight of Xander snowboarding down a mountain while outrunning an avalanche, no matter how ridiculous, is exhilarating. Cohen and screenwriter Rich Wilkes seem to be more focused on imagining situations and plot devices where Xander can incorporate his extreme sports attitude rather than providing him with quality supporting characters or even a believable villain.

While the film creates a sky-high level of escapism, there is still something missing in the script. It is no secret that Cohen and Wilkes have intentions of turning xXx into a Bond for the new millennium, but there is no sense of parody here that would have served the film well. Wilkes throws in several sly winks that include a younger version of the films' Q character, as well as Xander's use of explosive weapons as opposed to more up close and personal ones. One scene has him firing a rocket launcher indoors after stating that a Playstation-like mentality is the only way to go.

I think that many may fail to see the greatness of Diesel's performance as it falls in line with so many other roles the young star has played. In this film, as well as nearly all of his other works, Diesel owns the screen in every scene. With Diesel, it is so apparent that he is in command of the screen that at times it feels as though the supporting characters sort of fade away, leaving your eyes solely focused upon him.



Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is not the stellar presentation I expected but is still a fine effort. With a large amount of extra features as well as a highly kinetic sound mix, the lack of space may be the greatest contributor to the lack of image quality. Colors are rendered nicely throughout with the bright whites of the avalanche sequence being the most impressive; they show no bleeding and retain terrific detail and sharpness. There are a few isolated instances of edge enhancement but nothing too offensive. The biggest problem is the lack of depth found in so many great transfers.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English and Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: Wow! Normally I have issues with overly showy Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks, but in this case I was so wrapped up in the soundtrack that little creaks and other ambient sounds made me go to the window countless times. The surround speakers are constantly in use as the mix seemingly wraps around the room with great precision. The .1 LFE track also delivers the goods, with the highlight being the avalanche sequence. Dialogue is clean and crisp with no distortion. An amazing soundtrack.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English and French with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Anger Management and Darkness Falls
11 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Rob Cohen
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Scene Deconstructions
  2. Pontiac GTO spot
  3. Adrenaline music video by Gavin Rossdale
Extras Review: OK, here is where the disc earns its stripes. The fully-loaded special edition leads off with a commentary track by director Rob Cohen that is in line with other tracks by the director, in that it boasts a gleeful jubilance for the film. Cohen discusses some issues that are a bit out there, including his ability to skewer towards younger audiences because he feels connected to them, but for the most part the track is informative. I appreciated the way in which Cohen avoids dragged out discussions on the process of filmmaking that have been heard so many times before and instead goes for shallow, but fun, anecdotes.

The other substantial feature is a forty-minute documentary on the making of xXx that is an immersive look at the stakes that were taken to bring the work to the screen. Beginning with the first day of shooting, we learn that the film was, for all intents and purposes, shot in sequence. Ending with the premiere, the documentary is far from being the informative benchmark upon which all other documentaries might be based, but what is here is certainly enjoyable. For me, the most exciting aspect was the look at the post production, including the editing, scoring, and promotionof the film.

A collection of ten deleted scenes is featured and while several are entertaining (more Samuel L. Jackson is welcome any day of the week), none would have added to the overall appeal of the film. A scene showing Diesel befriending a stranger on an airplane is completely out of place; others are merely extensions of existing scenes. This section can be viewed with or without commentary by Rob Cohen.

Four featurettes are available for viewing; Diesel Powered, Building Speed: The Vehicles of xXx, Designing the World of xXx, and finally The GTO is Back. Perhaps it is just me, but I found the GTO short to be the most entertaining even if it is a bit promotional. Each short runs a little over five minutes in length and only extends upon what is seen in the forty-minute documentary.

Visual Effects How To's are simply plate shots of existing special effects sequences with commentary explaining how they were achieved. Finally, the music video for the song Adrenaline by Gavin Rossdale is offered, as are the theatrical trailers for xXx, Darkness Falls, and Anger Management.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

I liked xXx for the same reasons that I enjoy so many brainless action extravaganzas: I enjoy a good two hours where I can shut my brain off and relax, a nice contrast to the real world sometimes. Recommended

 


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