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Case Number 02474

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xXx

Sony // 2002 // 124 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // December 18th, 2002

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our review of xXx: Uncensored Unrated Director's Cut, published June 13th, 2005, is also available.

The Charge

A new breed of secret agent.

Opening Statement

Vin Diesel must be the luckiest guy on God's green earth. Starting out big as a solider in Steven Spielberg's hit Saving Private Ryan, Diesel quickly climbed the Hollywood ranks to star in such flicks as Pitch Black and The Fast And The Furious. With xXx, Diesel finds himself at the top of the genre—bald headed with a sleepy stare and smirk, Diesel is the new generation of action hero. xXx was a hit with moviegoing audiences, proving that James Bond isn't the only secret agent on the block anymore. Columbia brings xXx to DVD in a special edition that'll make your player go bang-pow-crash!

Facts of the Case

Diesel plays Xander Cage (aka xXx), a hardcore rebel who enjoys filming his thrill-seeking stunts—jumping off bridges, et cetera—and staying six steps ahead of the local authorities. What Xander doesn't know is that he's at the top of a government list of people needed to help save the planet (the theory at the FBI apparently being, "when all else fails, recruit an anarchic thug to be the hero"). Enter National Security Agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson, The Long Kiss Goodnight), a tough-as-nails boss who enlists Xander in a few training games to make sure he's got the right stuff to be a secret agent. Of course, Xander passes with flying colors and is shuttled off to the Czech Republic to infiltrate a gang of young Russian terrorists who have plans to kill most of the world's population with a biological weapon made up of two liquids that, when mixed, create a lethal gas. Phew. Xander certainly has his work cut out for him. As Xander infiltrates the villain's lair and makes nice-nice with the group's sneering leader Yorgi (Marton Csokas), he also finds himself smitten with Yorgi's girlfriend Yelena (Asia Argento, daughter of Italian horror director Dario). Soon a few double crosses happen, the biological bomb is revealed, and Xander must figure out a way to save the world super agent style while simultaneously looking super cool.

Ah, the life of a super secret agent.

The Evidence

You've got to hand it to the producers of xXx: this movie couldn't slow down if it wanted to. xXx is made up of seemingly dozens of set pieces that feature avalanches, explosions, snowmobiles, parachuting, parasailing, motorcycles, and just about every other action stunt in the book. I had hardly enough time to digest everything before some other explosion began.

I liked xXx. I didn't love it (as many of my friends and colleagues did), but I liked it a whole lot. I thought it was goofy, silly entertainment that seems tailor made for Diesel's take-no-shit attitude. Diesel seems to have risen from nowhere and has become one of the biggest and brightest action movie stars. Though I wasn't a fan of his sci-fi thriller Pitch Black, I did enjoy (in a very mindless sort of way) his supersonic The Fast and The Furious. Kicking it up a notch, so far xXx is my favorite of Diesel's movies.

The great thing about xXx is that it gives the whole James Bond theme a swift kick in the pants (the film's opening scene proves that Mr. Bond just doesn't cut it when it comes to getting info out of our generation). It's not that I want the Bond films to change or become extinct—I just think it was time to get (as the ad campaign says) "a new breed of secret agent" on the market. Xander Cage is a great action hero because A.) he is good with the deadpan wisecracks, B.) just one look at him and you know he's a badass and C.) he doesn't know how to lay down and die quietly.

Yes, this movie is utterly stupid and unbelievable. Every action sequence stretches the bounds of disbelief to the point of breakage. Even most of the characters are stock types: the snake-like bad guy, the sexy sidekick/love interest, the pressuring mentor—all of these stereotypes are here, and yet I didn't mind. I didn't mind that Asia Argento spends most of the film with a sexy Lolita pout on her face to hide the fact that she's not much of an actress. It didn't bother me to see Xander outrun an avalanche on a frickin' snowboard. It didn't even bother me he could escape an extremely powerful underwater explosion. You know why? Because the film is undeniably fun. From the first frame to the last (setting up the inevitable sequel), xXx seems to have a smirk plastered on its celluloid face that lets us know that it's in on the joke. As directed by Rob Cohen (who also helmed The Fast and The Furious and Dragonheart), xXx zips along with little to bore the audience—it's all just a lot of bang for your buck. Perfect for the summer moviegoing audience.

I can recommend this movie for action fans and those looking for something different (a cool variation on spy films) and familiar at the same time. After writing this review, I've just concluded that I did love xXx. Sometimes a movie slowly gets ya. xXx got me. Twice recommended.

xXx is presented in glorious 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Columbia has done a fine job at making sure the transfer is generally clear of any defects or imperfections (aside of a slight amount of dirt in the image). The colors are all very bright and bold with black levels solid and even. Overall I was very happy with how crisp and clean this transfer looked.

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and French. Wow! What a rockin' track this turned out to be. With tons of directional effects rocketing around the viewer nearly the whole way through, this track utilizes surround sounds to full effect! This track will work wonders on any surround sound system (what, you DON'T have one yet? For shame!) with all aspects of the mix free and clear of any hiss or excessive distortion. Also included on this disc are English and French subtitles.

I was a little surprised to see this movie get a two-disc soundtrack, but not a two-disc DVD release. Such is the life of finicky movie reviewers. As it stands, this edition of xXx is chock full of some fun features for fans to peruse through. The director and Columbia TriStar have worked together to bring you a great look into the world of filmmaking (and all these features are under the amusing heading of the "Xander Zone"). Here's a rundown of what's on the disc:

Commentary Track by Director Rob Cohen: Well, doesn't Mr. Cohen think highly of himself? I get the feeling that Cohen is really, really happy with all the work he's done, and he ain't afraid to share that with us. Actually, this commentary track is packed with tons of information about the film, from its influences (duh…James Bond) to Vin Diesel and how much Cohen really, really likes him. All in all I enjoyed this commentary track, though I don't think I'll ever feel the need to watch it again.

xXx: A Filmmaker's Diary: This is a newly created behind-the-scenes documentary that is well worth a fan's time. The crew for this feature was allowed on the set "82 out of 82 days," meaning they were given an exclusive look at the mechanics of making xXx. This is broken down into two parts: "US—Pre-Production" and "Prague—Post Production." Everything from interviews with the cast to behind-the-scenes footage is included here; the fact is that the scope of this feature is pretty deep. I liked that the filmmakers decided to film in Prague because the story was set Prague, not because it offered cheap sets or a lower budget. This documentary is worth the effort for both hardcore and casual fans alike.

4 Featurettes: "Building Speed—The Vehicles of xXx," "Designing the World of xXx," "Diesel Powered," and "The GTO is Back": None of these seem to be all that deep or exciting. "The GTO is Back" and "Diesel Powered" are love letters to Pontiac and Mr. Diesel, respectively (such self-orgasmic statements as "the depth and breath of Vin's abilities have just begun to be seen" are common place). "Designing the World of xXx" is a short look at the film's production design with Gavin Bocquet. This was probably the best of these four featurettes. "Building Speed—The Vehicles of xXx" is your basic look at all the fun motor toys, cars and boats featured in the film. Though none of these are quite as insightful as the "Filmmaker's Diary," they do provide the viewer with a little more info on the film's history and production.

Visual Effects How-To's: "Creating a Mountain Avalanche," "Creating and Avalanche," and "Shack Explosion" are three composites of how the created various effects in the film. Each are shown in different stages of completion, then shown as a final cut. A worthwhile quickie for special effects how-to fanatics.

10 Deleted Scenes: All ten of these deleted scenes are presented in a rough looking non-anamorphic transfer with time code. While a few of these are worth watching, overall director Rob Cohen made a smart move by deleted most of these scenes (some of which are just bland scene extensions). A somewhat different alternate ending is also included in this section. Also available on each scene is optional commentary with the director.

Gavin Rossdale's "Adrenaline" Music Video: A non-anamorphic widescreen music video by the lead singer of the rock group Bush. Fun if you're a fan of the rock group Bush. I am not a fan of the rock group Bush.

Finally there are a few filmographies on various cast and crew members, as well as theatrical trailers for the Adam Sandler/Jack Nicholson comedy Anger Management, the horror flick Darkness Falls, and one for xXx.

Closing Statement

Fluffy and light, but a heckuva a lot of fun. Please make sure not to confuse this film with a Ron Jeremy stag movie. Columbia has done a great job at making sure the video and audio portions of this disc are well done considering the amount of extra features included on this disc.

The Verdict

xXx is free to go, though I feel a little dirty saying that.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 93
Audio: 96
Extras: 94
Acting: 88
Story: 82
Judgment: 91

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 124 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Genres:
• Action
• Blockbusters

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary Track by Director Rob Cohen
• "xXx: A Filmmaker's Diary"
• Four Featurettes
• "Visual Effects How To's"
• 10 Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Director Rob Cohen
• Music Video "Adrenaline" by Gavin Rossdale
• Three Theatrical Trailers
• Filmographies

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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