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The 80s and early 90s were packed with many action stars. The likes of Arnie, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone were all ruling the nest. Gradually age and the use of special effects meant that many of the stars disappeared from our screens. For the past decade there hasn’t really been anyone to fill their shoes, that was until the 2001 release of The Fast and The Furious. Up stepped Vin Diesel who was relatively unknown until then. With the release of xXx director Rob Coen called upon Vin Diesel to star in his blockbuster extreme spy movie. However could the big guy really give James Bond a run for his money?

xXx
Movie
Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is an extreme sports enthusiast, who has a cult following. Xander is renowned for performing crazy stunts which get him into trouble with the authorities, but also provide a wealthy form of income with interest in the star at a high level. Xander’s popularity doesn’t just end with his fans though. NSA commander Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) believes that Xander is just the man for a job he has lined up. Gibbon persuades the reluctant star (who is threatened with a jail sentence if he doesn’t cooperate) to help him track down a gang of European rebels called Anarchy 99.

Anarchy 99 is led by Yorgi (Martin Csokas), who wishes to wreak havoc on governments worldwide. The gang is based in Prague, so off goes Xander armed with state of the art gadgets which even James Bond would be proud of. Xander earns the respect and friendship of Yorgi, but finds a stumbling block in the form of Yelena (Asia Argento), who is not convinced by Xander’s stories. Will the novice’s cover be blown, or will he manage to save the day?  

xXx
Its safe to say that xXx will not win any Oscars. It is daft, yet exciting, predictable but engrossing and that’s why the movie is a success in my opinion. There are numerous reasons why I should dislike this movie, but equally there are just as many reasons why I ended up enjoying it. Like his action predecessors Vin Diesel is not the best actor the world has ever seen, but he looks the part and I certainly wouldn’t argue with him! The role of Xander Cage is made for Vin Diesel and is probably the main reason the implausible script seems acceptable. Some of the special effects can also be unconvincing at times, but as the movie progresses the set pieces become more believable. xXx is the perfect Saturday popcorn flick. Your wife will enjoy looking at Vin Diesel’s pecs, while you can be left to gaze at the non-stop action that this film has to offer. Vin Diesel may not be the new Bond, but I am sure we haven’t seen the last of him in the Xander Cage roll.

Video
Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1. Columbia have produced another transfer worth shouting about. After the somewhat disappointing transfer on the Spiderman disc, I was a little apprehensive about the DVD release of xXx. Thankfully all my worries proved unjustified upon inserting this disc into my player. I managed to catch xXx at the cinema and this DVD is every bit as impressive. The print is pristine and showed no signs of damage. Colour reproduction was spot-on, which is one of the things that stood out at the cinema. xXx features many different types of sceneries and lighting levels (extreme whites and blacks), but this transfer deals with each element proficiently. Grain levels are kept to a minimum and never became an issue. Edge enhancements were also non-existent and compression artefacts failed to raise their ugly head. This is a first class transfer which falls just short of reference quality.

xXx
Audio
As with the region one release, Columbia have only provided an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack here. A DTS track would have been nice, but then again the track on offer is pretty damn fine! If you like aggressive tracks then you are gonna love this. The full range of speakers are used to produce a track which will have your neighbours reaching for their ear plugs! The xXx musical score is a mixture of pumping tunes and more pumping tunes, so in between the guns and cars chases are rock tunes which ensure that there are no quiet moments. You may be worried that the dialogue would get lost with such commotion going on, but this is not the case. Dialogue is clear throughout and adds to what is a rip-roaring track. In my opinion this is the best soundtrack of the year so far.

Extras
All extras are held in an area called the Xander Zone. First up is an extra called the filmmakers diary. This extra comes in two parts. The first part is called US Pre-Production, which is spurred on by the DVD success of The Fast and The Furious. This mini documentary starts off with the director giving thanks for having the opportunity to make movies. Vin Diesel talks about his respect for Rob Coen, and that was one of the reason he decided to take the role. The first part of the diary lasts for just over fifteen minutes and offers some useful information from the director. Part 2 is shot in Prague and is entitle Post-Production. It is obvious that the director has a special affection for Prague, he seemed to enjoy his time filming there and after seeing this diary it is easy to see why. The second part of the diary lasts for over twenty five minutes. If you are a fan of Rob Coen, then this is must see for you.

Next up on this disc are the featurettes and this has three on offer. The first of the featurettes is entitled ‘Building Speed : The vehicles of xXx’. In this featurette various designers talks about the vehicles shown in the film. As a viewer you get to see detailed designs from the vehicles, with 3D models shown as well. You also get to see behind the scenes footage, with fans of Vin Diesel’s previous movie Fast and The Furious in for a treat as the star gives a detailed chat about the cars used in the movie. This featurette lasts for just under seven minutes. Next up is the ‘Designing the World of xXx’ featurette which involves various members of the production crew talking about how they brought the world of xXx to the big screen. Vin Diesel also has some input into this featurette and talks about the surroundings he had to work in. This featurette runs for about fourteen minutes and sets the tone for the movie well. It has a pumping soundtrack and also demos some of the more hectic stunt from the movie, while at the same time not giving away too much of the plot. ‘Diesel Powered’ is the final featurette, which concentrates on the big man himself, Vin Diesel. His supporting cast talk very highly of him and of his professional behaviour. Vin Diesel also talks about various aspects of the movie, including the reasons why he was drawn to the movie. All the crew agree that the character of xXx was ideal for Vin. This featurette also shows a lot of the behind the scenes footage where we get to see Vin Diesel doing his own stunts.

xXx
Special Effects junkies will be drooling at the mouth over this next section. It is titled ‘Visual Effects – How to’ and covers three of the main stunt areas of the movie. Included are sections on creating the mountain avalanche, creating an avalanche and the shack explosion. Each sequence can be played alone or is also accompanied by a filmmaker commentary.  This section is ideal for any fans who want to see how the effects were brought to the big screen and are interested in what the filmmakers have to say about the scenes.

Next up are the deleted scenes. The scenes are split nicely over the duration of the movie. My favourite scene involves Vin Diesel on a plane where he is looking at secret information. A young lad catches him looking at the programme and is interested in the contents. This is an amusing scene which lasts for about three minutes. Other scenes are not quite so long and it is easy to see why they have been left out. Each scene is accompanied by a commentary which explains exactly why each scene was removed from the final cut. If music videos are your thing the you might be interested in the Gavin Rossdale ‘Adrenaline’ Music Video which can be found on the disc. This video fits in perfectly with the tone of the film as it is a rock tune. The music video lasts for just over four minutes.

Filmographies also frequent the extras section where we are treated to information about Rob Cohen (Director), Rich Wilkes (Writer), Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson and Asis Argento. Below the filmographies you will also find a series of trailers. The first trailer is for xXx and it is a pumping trailer which is bound to have teenage audiences drooling. The trailer runs for just under a minute. Also included in the trailer section is National Security which is the Martin Lawrence comedy movie. Sadly this trailer makes the movie look like a poor version of Lawrence’s past movie Bad Boys. Definitely one I will give a miss. Lastly in the trailer section is the Eddie Murphy/ Owen Wilson movie I Spy which flopped when released last year. Unlike the National Security trailer this one actually makes the movie look entertaining.

Last, but not least is the directors commentary with Rob Coen. Once you get to this extra you know that you are in for a treat. Keeping up with the rest of the DVD we are treated to a very detailed description about every aspect of the film. The director talks about things like his love of the Bond movies, right through to why he chose Prague as the location for the movie. This is one of the best commentaries I have listened too. Rob Coen keeps things very interesting and never gets boring. Most commentaries have long pauses, Rob Coen manages to speak for most of the movie, which shows how much enthusiasm he has for the film.

xXx
Overall
xXx exploded onto our screens and brought Vin Diesel to the forefront of action movies. Recently there haven’t been enough no-brainer action movies, so xXx is a welcome breath of fresh air. It maybe daft and predictable, but judged on entertainment value alone you cannot fault this movie. As for the disc Columbia Tristar have produced a disc to be proud of. After the disappointment of the Spiderman DVD it is nice to see that they have made an effort to get back on the right track. The visual/audio aspects of this disc are first class and are backed up by some informative extras. Its time to enter the Xander zone and you won’t regret it!  


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