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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
xXx (Superbit) (2002)

Agent Gibbons: This is your lucky day, Xander. This is your chance to pay back your Uncle Sam for all the wonderful freedoms you enjoy. The job's not that difficult. I just want you to meet some people and find out whatever you can about them.
Xander Cage: What type of people?
Agent Gibbons: Dangerous, dirty, tattooed, uncivilized. Your kind of people.

- Samuel L. Jackson, Vin Diesel

Review By: David Krauss  
Published: May 26, 2003

Stars: Vin Diesel, Asia Argento, Marton Csokas, Samuel L. Jackson
Other Stars: Michael Roof, Richy Müller, Werner Dähn, Petr Jakl, Tom Everett
Director: Rob Cohen

Manufacturer: Columbia Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, non-stop action sequences, sensuality, drug content and language
Run Time: 02h:03m:57s
Release Date: May 13, 2003
UPC: 043396007734
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- CA-A+ D-

DVD Review

Vin Diesel—he of the bulging biceps, pumped-up pectorals and stubbly noggin—has recently emerged as the poster boy of macho movie cool. Poised to inherit the title of Beefy, Bass-Voiced Action Hero left vacant by the aging Schwarzenegger and Stallone, Diesel possesses that elusive but essential quality of sheer presence that can manufacture a Hollywood career in a nanosecond. You can't buy it, you can't learn it, you've simply gotta have it and Diesel does. How long he can sustain our interest remains to be seen, but for the time being he's the flavor of the moment. And if he makes the right choices, that moment could last for years.

After Diesel's coming out party in The Fast and the Furious (2001), the pyrotechnic xXx was specifically designed to showcase his Cro-Magnon magnetism and vault him into mega-stardom. The experiment worked, but xXx the movie only succeeds on its basest level, as a shoot-'em-up, blow-'em-up, save-the-world, check-your-brain-at-the-door action fantasy. It promises pure action, it delivers pure action, but beneath director Rob Cohen's slick visual style, xXx is devoid of substance, filled with cardboard characters, contrived situations and a predictable story. Strung together by the thinnest of threads, the truly explosive action sequences thus lose their edge, as the actors are merely props for the special effects team. We marvel at the spectacle and wonder about the tricks and stunts behind the scenes because there's little else to occupy our mind.

For what it's worth, the story concerns a band of ex-military Russian anarchists out to poison the world with biological weapons so mankind can live freely, without the constraints of government. When numerous efforts to infiltrate the group fail, Agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) recruits, among others, Xander Cage (Diesel), an extreme sports lunatic whose outrageous stunts have saddled him with a laundry list of serious charges. Gibbons threatens him with three-strikes retribution if he doesn't join the undercover team, so Xander signs on for the fun. In various training exercises, he distinguishes himself from his fellow ruffians, and becomes Gibbons' right hand man. Then it's off to Prague to save the world and romance a grungy double agent. If James Bond were a thug, he'd be Xander Cage.

Of course, the plot is just a flimsy frame on which to hang the multiple high-voltage action sequences. Cohen puts Diesel (or his stunt double) on every type of vehicle imaginable and constructs dazzling orgies of destruction for him to dodge. He drives a Corvette off a suspension bridge, motorbikes over exploding buildings, snowboards down a mountain with a raging avalanche in hot pursuit, even uses a silver serving tray as a skateboard and glides down a stair-railing. The scenes are lengthy and thrilling, although much of the length can be attributed to each sequence's payoff shot, which Cohen photographs from about 14 different angles—and lovingly shows us each one.

Diesel can be a decent actor and does as much as he can with his role, relying on personality and presence to put his character across. But while vulnerability and emotional depth rounded out the tough lug he portrayed in The Fast and the Furious, the material in xXx gives him little with which to work. As a result, he's a bit of a bore, despite the apocalyptic trimmings.

Still, xXx won me over, just not to the nth degree, which is a shame. Despite healthy doses of testosterone, adrenaline and TNT, the film craves some good old-fashioned heart to make it more involving. And yet xXx never promises anything more than mindless action, so no apologies are necessary.


Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Having not seen the original DVD release of xXx, I can't compare its image quality to this Superbit version, although Kevin Clemons did cite lack of depth as an issue in his review of that edition. While the Superbit technology definitely corrects any depth deficiencies, the transfer didn't blow me away like I thought (and hoped) it would. Still, it's an impressive presentation. Pristine source material helps, although some light grain remains. Detail, however, is superb (especially Gibbons' scarred face), the vivid colors gleam, lines are crisp but not enhanced, and even subtle contrast (the various white hues of the avalanche) is rich and defined. The result is undiluted in-your-face action, with every sequence a visual treat.


Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Sometimes the differences between DD 5.1 and DTS are almost indistinguishable. Not so here. The DTS track is a major improvement, providing a noticeable increase in fidelity and presence. With the DD 5.1 track, you are watching the film; with DTS engaged, you are in the film, totally encompassed by the action. Even the most negligible sounds crackle and pop, adding tremendous atmosphere to the movie. The bass is deeper and more powerful, and the surrounds kick in constantly, even enhancing the funky soundtrack songs. This is reference quality stuff and a tremendous selling point for this disc.


Audio Transfer Grade: A+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Typical of the Superbit line, no extras are included, as disc space is designated solely for audio and video quality.


Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

If your home theater setup craves a workout, then the Superbit xXx will make it sweat. Although the film lacks three-dimensional characters and an absorbing plot, it supplies enough thrills and spills to keep action mavens riveted. (Just program your player to string together all the action scenes and deep-six the superfluous story.) The high quality resolution and heart-pounding DTS track give this Superbit version of xXx plenty of bang for the buck. Fans of the film would be crazy to pass it up.


 


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