Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

XXX (Special Edition)

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
8 out of 10
Extras Rating:
6 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

Vin Diesel as Xander Cage
Samuel L. Jackson as NSA Agent Gibbons
Asia Argento as Yelena
Marton Csokas as Yorgi
Joe Bucaro III as Virg
TeeJay Boyce as Janelle

Special Features:
Director's Commentary
A Filmmaker's Diary Documentary
Diesel Powered
Building Speed: The Vehicles of XXX Featurette
Designing The World of XXX
The GTO is Back Featurette
11 Deleted Scenes with Optional Director Commentary
Visual Effects "How To's"
Music Video: Adrenaline by Gavin Rossdale
DVD-ROM Features
Motion Scene Selection

Other Info:
Anamorphic Widescreen
Running Time: 124 Mins.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
English and French Audio Tracks
English and French Subtitles

A group of former Soviet soldiers have formed a group called Anarchy 99 in Czechoslovakia. Dedicated to toppling the governments of the world, they have a new top-secret plan in the works. Unfortunately, the American National Security Agency (NSA) can't get anyone in close enough to find out what they're up to.

NSA Agent Gibbons gets the bright idea to hire a lowlife criminal to infiltrate the organization. He decides to recruit extreme sport athlete Xander Cage for the job. By threatening him with a lifetime in jail, Gibbons blackmails Cage into taking the assignment. Fortunately for everyone, it seems that Cage was born for the work. He quickly gathers info on Anarchy 99. But rather than pull out, he decides to delve deeper into their organization and find out what they're really up to. What this rebellious adrenaline junkie discovers threatens to kill millions of people, and his choices and skills could mean the difference between life and death for them all.

"XXX" is rated PG-13 for violence, non-stop action sequences, sensuality, drug content and language.

The Movie:
I reviewed this movie upon its theatrical release earlier this year. You can see my original review here.

The last big summer movie of 2002, "XXX" is James Bond revamped for the skater / video game / extreme sport / tattoo / headbanging enthusiast. It's also the kind of movie your home theater system was made for. With great visuals and an explosive soundtrack, it will really rock your house.

The creators of "XXX" have taken the tired old James Bond formula and successfully revamped it for new audiences. This is demonstrated in the very first scene of the film where a tuxedo clad secret agent is pursued into a head banging club in Prague. There, he stands out like a sore thumb and is promptly shot and killed. It's rather symbolic of what this movie is trying to do. It has the basics of a James Bond film like exotic locations, impossible stunts, cool cars, gadgets (even a Q), and beautiful women. But it throws in new twists like extreme sports, more modern music, and attitude. Lots of attitude. In the end, it's more entertaining than recent 007 flicks.

If you're a fan of action films, then you'll love this movie. "XXX" has several show stopping scenes including an explosive chase at a Colombian drug processing plant, a chase on a mountain between Diesel on a snowboard and some snowmobiles in an avalanche, and a gunfight in a castle. Another clever action scene features Diesel and Argento chasing a runaway boat in his GTO. They attempt to stop the boat while reading the instruction manual in the car that describes all the newly installed gadgets. Not only was it amusing, it added an extra edge to the chase.

In the end "XXX" is a fun action adventure and a cool new entry to the spy movie genre.

The Extras:
The extras on this DVD are a bit of a mixed bag. Here's what I mean:

Director's Commentary - Director Rob Cohen is all over this DVD. In fact, he's probably on it more than Vin Diesel himself. His commentary is fairly interesting but it gets tedious over time listening to him drone on. He does point out some interesting bits of trivia about the filming that makes it briefly worth checking out.

A Filmmaker's Diary Documentary - This is more of Rob Cohen. In this documentary he was followed around the set for the duration of the making of XXX. You get a sense that this guy is a real split personality. He's partly a professional filmmaker and artist, partly a man that's still an immature teenager. I guess that's why his films are successful with that target audience. We see them preparing for shots, setting up stunts, and more. The first half takes place in the US and the second half moves on to Prague and the post-production. It's cool to watch the behind the scenes of the stunts and explosions. As you may know, a stuntman was killed during the making of this film. I wasn't sure if they'd mention that in this video, but they did. Cohen provides a brief, sentimental tribute to the stuntman that was appropriate for this feature. The movie moves on to post production and we see the making of the soundtrack. The final result is an interesting documentary that tells you just about everything you'd want to know about the making of XXX.

Diesel Powered - It may surprise you, but Vin Diesel is barely in any of the extra features on this DVD. He makes brief cameo interviews here and there, but this is the only one that talks a lot about him. It shows his training for the movie, how he performed his own stunts, and more. It also shows all his cast and crew raving about what a bad dude he is which is a bit less tolerable. We get it.

Building Speed: The Vehicles of XXX Featurette - This featurette really only talks about two vehicles in the film - the GTO and the AHAB boat. We get a behind the scenes look at the CG involved with creating the boat and there are plenty of shots of them filming with the real prop on the river. The feature then discusses the GTO, the design behind it, and all the modifications they made to it.

Designing The World of XXX - This is a short piece talking about the set designs, locations in Prague, NSA headquarters set, and more. They also talk about the guns and gadget designs.

The GTO is Back Featurette - This is a horribly cheesy commercial by Pontiac, nothing more. Executives from Pontiac rave about the movie (trying to appear natural while reading from a script) and pushing their new GTO that will be coming in 2003. I've seen a lot of shameless promotions on DVDs before, but this one takes the cake as it tries to pass itself off as a legitimate extra feature.

11 Deleted Scenes with Optional Director Commentary - Every one of these deleted scenes are really weak. Some are nothing more than a couple of seconds long while others are really poor in content. One shows Diesel trying to go to sleep while the Ivans watch him. Another shows Diesel walking into the club. Not terribly exciting stuff. One with a little extra content is a scene on an airliner where Diesel is going through his mission profile on a laptop. A teen comes by and thinks he's playing a video game and they chat. It was yet another blatant attempt to portray Diesel as some hero for teens. Another scene shows 3 naked women (blurred for PG-13 discretion) lounging around while Yorgi talks on the phone. Cohen explains that it was intended to titillate audiences if the film got an R rating. Yet another shows an extended pole-dancing scene. Cohen's commentary through both of these scenes makes him come across as a horny old director who gets his kicks by using his power to have women do these things for him.

Visual Effects "How To's" - I don't know why they call these "How To's" because they are in no way instructional. They simply take a few of the avalanche scenes and show you how they created the effects. You see the background plates, the CG ice, etc. It's interesting although very brief.

Music Video: Adrenaline by Gavin Rossdale - I liked this song, but the video would have been more entertaining if they had just shown the computer animation that went with the closing credits. You may want to watch that instead of Gavin Rossdale lip synching while clips from the film play in the background.

Two of the extras, storyboard comparisons and scene deconstructions, are only available online using your disc.

The Bottom Line:
"XXX" is a good action movie worth checking out, but the DVD may not live up to expectations.

Order this DVD @ Amazon

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