Judge Mitchell Hattaway wonders who thought it was a good idea to name this movie "30."
Our review of xXx, published December 18th, 2002, is also available.
A new breed of secret agent.
A new low in double dips.
Facts of the Case
Vin Diesel. Boom! Sam Jackson. Crash! Marton Csokas. Bang! Asia Argento. Mrrrow! Other than that, there's not a lot to it.
Y'know what? I like this movie. For me, it's the most entertaining mindless action movie to come along since Point Break. It's really just a string of action set pieces tied together with the barest minimum of plot, but at least it knows what it is and uses that to its advantage. If I were 14, this would probably be the coolest movie ever.
For anyone who doesn't know, the plot of xXx revolves around Xander Cage (Vin Diesel, The Chronicles of Riddick), an extreme sports fanatic/miscreant who one day takes things too far by stealing a senator's Corvette and jumping it off a bridge. Xander's looking at three strikes in the penal system, but he's made an offer by NSA agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson, The Long Kiss Goodnight): Go to work for the government, infiltrate a terrorist group headed by a former Russian army officer named Yorgi (Marton Csokas, Garage Days), foil Yorgi's plan, and save the world, and all will be forgiven. Cage agrees (thank god, because otherwise there wouldn't be a movie), so it's off to Europe to blow up some stuff real good. Of course, you can't have a secret agent flick without a hot chick, so along the way Xander teams up with Yelena (Asia Argento, B. Monkey), an agent who's so deep into Yorgi's operation she can't find her way out. Turns out Yelena's pretty good at whacking people and blowing stuff up, too, and she puts to rest any stereotypes about female drivers. (A quick aside: For my money, Asia Argento combines hot and skanky in just the right combination.) Like I said—it's big, it's stupid, and it's fun. Just don't think about it too much. Better yet, don't think about it all; just sit back and watch it go down.
This is the fourth DVD incarnation of xXx (following the widescreen, full-screen, and Superbit releases of the theatrical cut), and this new edition seems designed primarily to promote the Ice Cube follow-up, xXx: State of the Union. As such, this release is a resounding failure, although I'm not sure anything could have prevented the sequel from bombing. Of course, it wouldn't be enough to simply tack on some promo pieces for the second film, so Sony has tossed in a few new bonus features (which we'll get to shortly), as well as throwing in some extra footage in order to create a new cut of the film. Before you go getting all excited, though, be aware that this new footage is nothing more than the deleted scenes available on the first release. What we have here is eight minutes of reinserted footage, which adds nothing to the film. The two biggest additions are a scene detailing Xander's flight to Prague (in which he goes over top secret information in plain view of anyone who happens to walk by and tells a nosy teenage boy the files are part of a new video game) and the alternate version of Yorgi's conversation with an informant (this footage, available as a digitally obscured deleted scene on the first release, features three naked women entangled in bed, as opposed to the one covered woman shown in the theatrical version). There are also a few snippets of restored dialogue—originally excised in order to obtain a PG-13 rating for the theatrical version—most notably a thinly veiled reference to oral sex in the final scene. Thing is, I've always thought the movie was a little too long (the midsection does drag a bit), and this additional footage certainly doesn't help. On top of that, some of the footage has been rather clumsily restored; many of the transitions between the new and old footage are rather awkward. Add it all up, and, naked women or no naked women, this new cut really serves no purpose.
This transfer appears to be the same one from the original release. With the exception of some excessive grain in a couple of dimly lit interiors, it is a first-rate transfer. The audio is a sonic marvel. There's surround action galore, fantastic directional effects, and plenty of booming bass (the avalanche sequence makes great demo material). Despite the over-the-top nature of the film, the dialogue always comes through clearly, and the Dolby Digital track conveys the film's quieter moments (as few and far between as they may be) nicely.
Okay, so let's get to the extras. We get quite a large selection, but the majority of them have been ported over from the original release. Here's a look at each, along with an indication of which are new and which have been recycled:
• Starz! On the Set
• Multi-Angle Stunts
• Sneak Peek: xXx: State of the Union
• A Scene from xXx: State of the Union
• The Final Chapter
• Storyboard Comparisons
• Visual Effects How-To's
• End Credit Sequence Raw and Uncut
• Hatebreed's "I Will Be Heard" Music Video
• Gavin Rossdale's "Adrenaline" Music Video
• Behind the Scenes Featurettes
• xXx: A Filmmaker's Diary
• Commentary by Director Rob Cohen
On top of this, you also get a free ticket for the sequel. I'm wondering if maybe I just can cash mine in for the seven bucks.
Unless you're a diehard fan, there's no need to pick up this release. There's absolutely nothing here that warrants another purchase.
xXx is guilty of being a guilty pleasure of mine. Columbia is guilty of an unnecessary, completely shameless marketing ploy. Court is adjourned.
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