xXx

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

No, it’s not a porno.

While the title of one of this Summer’s biggest hits is a bit, shall we say, on edge; it sets the style for what we can expect in the movie. And if some of these names sound a bit familiar, that’s because Director Rob Cohen and Vin Diesel have worked together before on the recent The Fast and the Furious. While that movie set Diesel as the action star for our new milleninum (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 (and yes, it’s a bona fide "franchise" now) 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 extrems "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 (Asis Argento), a villian (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. They don’t have the X Games for nothing, it was only a matter of time before they started figuring out the formula and translating that to the silver screen. Vin Diesel has become a big star, and it’s movies like this that will only 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, at they’re at number 20 right now. 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. For fans of the genre, recommended, otherwise give it a rental first.

Video: How does it look?

As we might expect, this action movie is shown in it’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is indeed enhanced for 16:9 TV’s. Again, as we might expect for a new to DVD movie that the image is near dazzling, leaving nothing much to the imagination. Just as with The Fast and the Furious, the sparkling transfer reflects the mood of the picture. If it’s looking at Diesel’s arms, then you’ll have a lot to look at here as the image doesn’t falter any. Though the slightest bit of edge enhancement is present, this really doesn’t detract from the overall sharpness and detail any. Black levels are on target and only in the fewest of scenes does the image deter from anything but jaw-dropping. Suffice it to say, this looks good…really good.

Audio: How does it sound?

Quite possibly the most active soundtrack that I’ve ever heard. My sub is not that powerful, and my room was literally shaking. It seems that in almost every scene, things tend to blow up. Fire is everywhere, and fire is one of the better sounds in 5.1. 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. Put it this way, if I want to show off how good my system can sound, I now put this disc in the player. You should too. Just as with The Fast and the Furious, this dual 5.1 sound is everything its cracked up to be.

Supplements: What are the extras?

If its supplements you’re looking for, then look no further as Columbia/Tristar has given us a great Special Edition of xXx. Starting off with the commentary by Rob Cohen, this is insightful and full of information. 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. Next up is "A Filmmakers Diary" separated into two sections, Pre and Post Production. Essentially, the title says it all as the 82 day shoot is captured here, though in a nutshell. We get to see most every aspect of the film from planning to editing and it’s a great take for a supplement as this really hasn’t been done much before. Additionally, four featurettes are also included that cover the more physical aspect of the movie, "Building Speed: The Vehicles of xXx" and so on offer somewhat campy, but rather interesting looks into the film. Though these are kind of "been there done that" on most every DVD nowadays, it’s always a nice inclusion on this disc. 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. A music video, storyboard comparisons and a theatrical trailer are also included as is some DVD-ROM material. I’m sure I missed a lot, but with all the supplements to be found, there’s a lot of excitement heading your way with this disc.

Disc Scores

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