xXx: 15th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)

January 9, 2017 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

No, it’s not a porno.

Director Rob Cohen and Vin Diesel, having worked together on The Fast and the Furious, went another direction with xXx. While that movie set Diesel as the action star for our new millennium (fear not, there will be many more), xXx only solidified it. Diesel, a gruff, muscle-bound man with a shaved head is much like Keanu Reeves in my honest opinion. What? How can you compare Keanu Reeves, the typical “California Surfer” to an actor like Diesel? It’s not so much that their styles are alike, but rather that they both know how to choose roles that best suit their personalities. While we see Diesel playing on the opposite side of the law, we see Reeves as a has been football player or as Neo in The Matrix. I mean really, can you picture anyone else in some of the parts that these guys have played? Of course not, and that’s what makes these so interesting in that it’s not the acting, but actually getting what you pay for.

xXx (and I chose to display the title that way, much like crazy/beautiful) is more of an homage to James Bond. While the Austin Powers franchise seems to have cashed in on the more humorous aspect of it, xXx is the attempt to mock it even more, just with a different style and attitude. As we meet Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), he is nothing more than an extreme “X Games” style sports hero. That alone might make for an interesting movie, but he has a tendency to steal computer chips and sports cars; hence he is tracked down by Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), an NSA agent, who wants to recruit Cage for some work with the NSA. Naturally he has no choice but to cooperate, as if he doesn’t, he’ll go to jail. And where would the fun be in that? As we might expect, there is a beautiful woman co-star (Asia Argento), a villain (complete with hidden lair in mountain) and plenty of stunts so unreal, they’re actually fun to watch.

xXx was successful because it knew the audience that it was playing to. Vin Diesel, at the time, was only starting to cement his reputation as a major player in Hollywood. As far as the movie goes, well, it’s predictable; the “bad guys” are the Czech Republic and it seems that the formula for an action movie that hit with Die Hard is still in place (bad guy with a bomb, will blow up world unless demands are met). Still, we know this just as we know that James Bond will remain unscathed at the end of every movie. While the film won’t win any awards, it knows the right audience to play to and that, in itself, might make for a more interesting watch. If The Fast and the Furious was your cup of tea, this will be as well.

Video: How does it look?

I have to say that it’s been a while, a long while, since this movie graced my television screen and that my screen has grown in both size and clarity since then. But Sony and their marketing team has deemed that we get a 15th Anniversary edition of this on Blu-ray and I was fairly excited to see how this looked. The film has been given a new 4K restoration and the difference is immediately noticeable. The colors seem to have a bit more depth, detail has been improved and black levels and contrast seem stronger. It has a more “film like” look to it. That said, I still noticed a few blips and errors along the way. The print used is arguably cleaner, but some of the exterior shots seem a bit dingy to me. An overall improvement, to be sure, but it’s not perfect.

Audio: How does it sound?

We get a DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack that’s a big improvement over the standard Dolby Digital one found on the DVD.  It seems that in almost every scene things tend to blow up. Fire is everywhere, and fire is one of the better sounds with this uncompressed mix. There are several examples of the 360 surround effect, literally traveling around all 5 channels that make you dizzy if you try and follow it. Bullets whiz from the front channels to the surrounds, and several car and train scenes make very good use of the front left and right channels. This ample and active mix doesn’t feel 15 years old, that’s for sure.

Supplements: What are the extras?

There had to be at least one new feature on this Anniversary Edition or else, why bother? Well that’s what we get as the remainder of the features are ported over from the previously-released DVD from years past.

New to this Blu-ray

  • Origins of A Renegade – The only new supplement on the disc is more of a promo piece for the new film in the franchise xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. Though some information about the original is present, the real reason we have this disc at all is due to the new film in the series.

Archival special features include:

  • Deleted Scenes – Eleven deleted scenes are also included, but they have the commentary included. I can see why they were cut and it’s always hard not to agree with the director when he explains to you why he cut a scene.
  • 10 Featurettes – These are taken from the DVD and now look very old and dated.
  • Audio Commentary – Director Rob Cohen puts forth an insightful and fact-filled commentary track. We can tell that he was rather comfortable with the movie, though big budget, but his past success with Diesel seemed to let us know that he had a hit on his hands.
  • Music Videos

The Bottom Line

A decade and a half later, xXx isn’t quite the movie it was in 2002. Maybe it’s because, at the time, The Fast and the Furious wasn’t the franchise it is today. Or not. Hell I don’t know. Yes, it’s a passable action film and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson in this. The technical specs are far beyond the previously-released Blu-ray from 2006, so if this isn’t part of your collection and you’re a fan – pick it up.

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