Back Add a Comment Share:
Introduction
xXx, A New Breed of Secret Agent. Really? I wasn’t so sure we even needed a new breed of secret agent. This was, of course, before I saw Mr. Bond’s latest outing, Die Another Day. So, okay, yes, we do in fact need something. Arnold’s sucking it in, Sly is not so sly anymore and Bruce is a ‘serious actor’ these days. But Vin Diesel? I had my doubts concerning his prowess as an action star, such doubts in fact, that I completely avoided xXx in the theatres despite having greatly enjoyed The Fast and the Furious. Quickly, the reviews of xXx came in from my most dependable friends (I don’t trust critics): “Oy, no plot! Loud, boring and stupid,” was one. Another, more simplistic comment was “Rick, don’t bother.”

xXx: Special Edition
Triple-Crap is more like it,” one said. That particular comment, by the way, came from the most eloquent of the bunch. Quickly, I’ll tell you the story behind ‘Triple-Crap’: my best friend and I devised a way to affectionately refer to any film as crap by putting the word crap in the title. For instance, Saving Private Ryan becomes Saving Private Crap, Spider-Man becomes Spider-Crap and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones becomes Star Crap Episode Crap: Attack of the Crappity-Crap Clones. I will elaborate no further.  But there was an instance in which my friend and I both looked one another directly in the eye and simultaneously yelled “Triple-Crap (or maybe crapCRAPcrap?)!”

And so, my thoughts of xXx were solidified. Sadly though, a film sometimes sneaks up on a guy, and in the end he winds up liking it for reasons that are most confusing.

Movie
What a piece of crap xXx is! I’m not quite sure how it accomplishes this, but xXx is the sort of muck that passes itself off as incredibly good muck, the kind of muck you watch repeatedly, over and over again and begin to brag to your friends that the film ‘wasn’t so bad!’ They look at you incredulously and you realize that, yes, the film is utter garbage and you’ve plainly been bamboozled. But be aware, you’re not bamboozled into thinking xXx is going to be good and it turns out to be disappointing, no; you know its bad before you see it, when you see it and for long while afterwards.

The trick is this: shortly thereafter, once the DVD is released, you see it on the shelf at Target and you say, “Wow, only $16.88! But, the movie…I just dunno.” Then you see it again later after getting your twenty-four pack of TP and say, “Oh, you’re not getting me to buy you, Mr. xXx, no sir. Not gonna do it.” Even later, after you realize everyone in the electronics section is staring at you for talking to yourself (all the while holding your twenty-four rolls of TP), you see it again and think, I just can’t justify buying a bad film even if the DVD is-- ah, screw it! So you buy it and you watch it and you love it.

xXx sees Mark Vincent (Vin Diesel… how pretentious!) as Xander Cage, an anti-sellout hardcore athlete. Xander’s not about the money or the fame, but about the women and the bliss of sticking it to ‘The Man’. In a post-9/11 a world where spies in tuxedos no longer cut the mustard, the U.S. needs something new. Augustus Gibbons (the true King of Cool, Sam Jackson) of the NSA knows this and he is going to let his co-workers know it, too. Scrape the bottom of the barrel and find someone with no fear.

Xander Cage is their man.

No, Asia, this movie isn't that kind of 'xXx'...

But from there, things get nebulous. Suddenly, I hear hard-rock music and Colombians start shooting at Diesel. All of the sudden he’s an agent, he’s in Prague and he’s in with a terrorist group known as Anarchy 99. Then, Asia Argento pussy-cats her way onto the screen and more people start firing guns…

This goes on for a spell and about nine hundred fifty-seven plot twists later you press the stop button on the remote, eject the xXx DVD and wonder what in the hell happened to the last two hours of your life. You also begin to wonder just why xXx seems so satisfying and very quickly you find yourself pondering the reason why you want to tell everyone that it ‘wasn’t so bad!’  

Between the exposition and the post-film confusion, you are without a doubt delighted to see Xander outrun an avalanche on a snowboard, punch a man whilst pulling a Superman on a Moto-Cross bike, ogling Ms. Argento’s jiggly-bits and so on and so forth. You marvel at seeing greasy Czechoslovakians hooting and hollering about death and anarchy while doing all of the aforementioned shooting. xXx is a wonder to behold, if only for its sheer brilliance and cunning at tricking anyone and everyone who sees it. Well, except Czechoslovakians. According to xXx, they don’t bathe, and I’m pretty sure they’re not happy with that. The Czechs probably saw right through the ruse that is xXx. Judging by the Stateside box-office, Americans sure as heck didn’t.  

So yeah, I like xXx. A whole lot.

But it is a piece of crap.

Wheeeee!
Video
xXx is presented anamorphically in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Where the film is a good pile o’ rubbish, the video is absolutely grand, boasting vibrant colors that never bleed, very fine sharpness and rare moments of edge-enhancement. Every so often there is a bit of grain in darker scenes and a few nicks and scratches here and there. Remarkable is the fact that the wealth of extras, the incredible audio (which I’ll get to in a moment) and the quality transfer are all on a single-sided dual-layered disc. Video of this quality is a rarity when everything is crammed onto one disc.

Columbia has had a few iffy transfers as of late and the transfer for xXx is a nice return for a company that has, in the past, always been top-notch.

Audio
The movie is (good) fertilizer, the video is great, but the audio is fantastic! There is nothing, absolutely nothing negative to say about this English 5.1 Dolby Digital track. From the opening scene all five speakers, along with the sub-woofer, are used to their fullest, creating one of the finest tracks 2002 had to offer. Surrounds are used effectively, cleverly and consistently. Dialogue is never a problem, always clear, despite the non-stop barrage of just about every sound effect known. The sub-woofer really shook my living room up and I must admit, I’ve never had so many complaints while watching a film. Oh, and my cat Piggy, well, she nearly blew up.

Extras
xXx has a great deal of bonus material that is far from crappy (okay, okay Tom, I’ll stop with the word crap!). You can find all of the material in the ‘Xander Zone’... erm, yeah.

First is a screen specific audio-commentary from director Rob Cohen. I must admit that Cohen is a man that really gets my goat. He tries so hard to (or seems to) be cool and appealing to post Generation-X kids (such as myself), despite being as old as my father. He seems like such a fake, and this is something, I think, that greatly diminishes his image as a filmmaker, if you can even call him one.

Cohen has recorded a commentary for each of his films (which include Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, DragonHeart and Daylight) if I’m not mistaken and despite my personal feelings about the man, he is quite deft at the art of imparting a great volume of information quickly and clearly. I found his track on The Fast and the Furious very enjoyable and that experience is repeated here. Cohen is clear and succinct and I came away from this track with a great deal of information concerning xXx.

This DVD has several video features and the first is xXx: A Filmmaker’s Diary, which runs just over 40 minutes. The two parts, U.S./Pre-Production and Prague/Post-Production, cover just about everything from a kind of Cinéma Vérité point-of-view. Cohen had a documentary team on-set for all 82 days xXx was in production and interspersed with their footage is a great deal of interview material featuring Rob Cohen, writer Rich Wilkes and all of the main players including Vin Diesel, Asia Argento and Samuel L. Jackson. This documentary goes into great detail for each of the films’ major sequences. A Filmmaker’s Diary is a great piece that covers most all you would want to know about xXx.

xXx: Special Edition
Next are four video featurettes each covering a specific topic. Building Speed: The Vehicles of xXx deals with how the Ahab hydrofoil and the always bad-ass GTO were created and used in xXx. The next piece, Designing the World of xXx, features Production Designer Gavin Bocquet, among others, discussing how the specific look for xXx was achieved. The last two pieces, Diesel Powered and The GTO is Back are both equally worthless, as I don’t think Vin Diesel is an actor deserving enough of his very own featurette, and to be subjected to the manure that is the featurette for the new GTO coming in 2003 is just inhumane.

Visual Effects How To’s are very similar to the effects deconstructions we’ve all seen in the past, but these are produced very well. The three pieces, Creating the Mountain Avalanche, Creating an Avalanche and Shack Explosion can be viewed with or without commentary from Visual Effects Supervisor Joel Hynek. Although short, I did get a good, basic idea of the several layers that made up those particular scenes.

Further into the ‘Xander Zone’ we find 11 Deleted Scenes, all of varying quality. Most of these scenes are pretty "meh" on the Rick scale of one-word responses, but there are a couple that are worth watching and might’ve even served the film had they been finished. We haven’t seen any extended-branching as of late and this would have been a good opportunity. All of the scenes have an optional commentary by Rob Cohen.

Winding down, there’s Gavin Rossdale’s video Adrenaline. It’s not a bad little video, catchy tune and directed by Cohen, if I have my facts straight. Lastly, there are your basic Filmographies as well as Theatrical Trailers for xXx, Darkness Falls and Anger Management (saw a preview screening back in November: everyone must see this Sandler/ Nicholson film!)

Finally, I have to note that two features are missing from the bonus materials. The Storyboard Comparisons as well as the Scene Deconstructions are noted on the back of the packaging (I believe Cohen even mentions them during his commentary) but are completely absent from any of the disc's menus; I couldn't even locate them as Easter-Eggs. That'll knock the score down a point or so. Tsk, tsk Columbia!

Think he's compensating for something, or is he just jealous?
Overall
xXx is just about the worst movie I have ever seen and should receive a 10 for its sheer ridiculousness (but that wouldn’t be right, for what credibility I have as a DVD critic would be tarnished!) This DVD from Columbia Tri-Star is top-notch and anyone into DVD for not only the film but the format as well should definitely buy this title. Strong video, stellar audio and a spiffy-keen (yet incomplete) package of bonus material make this a worthy purchase. Just remember, you can find xXx for $16.88 at Target, a few aisles away from the twenty-four packs of TP.


Links: