BluRay/DVD Reviews

XXX

By • Apr 17th, 2008 •

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Sony Pictures Releasing 2003.
124 mins / Rating PG-13

James Bond—you’ve got a problem. It took forty years, but they finally reinvented the secret agent franchise.

Vin Diesel looked around—who’s really out there? Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Klein, Wes Bentley, Freddie Prinze, Jr? Yeah, Diesel was right. There was a slot open for him. His time has come. And, with the help of director Rob Cohen (who seems to be channeling Diesel’s screen persona), he’s snared himself a huge franchise and emerges as a superstar.

Diesel has a misshapen shaved head, a big wide nose, no jaw, no cheekbones, and a tiny double chin. (Diesel—don’t do a Billy Bob Thornton and reconstruct your face! Don’t do a Jude Law and lose 20 pounds. Don’t do a comedy!) In XXX, Diesel does have one very important and significant thing—incredible sexual charisma. I haven’t seen this since “On my order, unleash Hell.”

Zander Cage, a.k.a. Triple X, (Vin Diesel) is an extreme athlete superstar who finally gets in a lot of trouble intentionally destroying a senator’s Corvette in a base-jumping-off-a-bridge, videotaped stunt. Through a series of imaginative training “exercises,” he is “recruited” by scarred NSA Agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to infiltrate the Prague-based Anarchy 99, headed by a sexy madman (Marton Csokas) and his angry Russian girlfriend (the outspoken Italian actress Asia Argento). He’s expendable, a thug, and fearless. Why not use a guy like this instead of a highly-trained, expensive government agent?

Director Rob Cohen finally does the decadent Euro-Trash lifestyle justice. Triple X looks around and he’s awed, amused, and fits right in. He’s disrespectful to Gibbons, changes plans when it suits him, doesn’t take orders, and throws away some clever appropriate-to-the-character lines. Screenwriter Rich Wilkes also gives Diesel two image-making declarations: “I live for this ****!” and “The things I’m about to do for my country.” He’s not thrilled to be a secret agent. It’s a sudden vacation lark for him. Fourteen-year-old boys and women will find an altar to pray at.

So that’s not Diesel flying off the car, or skiing down the Austrian Alps. Did anyone believe Roger Moore was doing his own stunts? This is a big movie and the filmmakers deliver impressive and continuous action sequences. There’s extreme snowboarding, extreme parasailing, extreme motorcycling, and lots of things blow up. Triple X even starts an avalanche. What’s not to admire and outdo in the sequel?

According to Richard Stefanik, author of “The Megahit Movies,” every blockbuster must have a “timelock” — the hero has to race against time in the Third Act. REIGN OF FIRE didn’t have one; XXX follows the Stefanik formula with slavish precision. Diesel is completely at ease and exudes sexual confidence—hard to do without coming across as smugly arrogant. Obviously, this is not something often conveyed on film—hence Diesel’s volcanic rise. The Triple X clothes (especially the outlandish jacket), the pacing, the stunts, Diesel’s casual acting, (along with appropriate character “arc” and developed sense of morality)—it all worked for me.

The original XXX DVD release on 12/31/02 is fully loaded with extras including director Rob Cohen’s commentary, four featurettes, deleted scenes, DVD-ROM access, a music video and more. But for superior picture and sound quality, XXX in Superbit is far, far superior to the original disc. This DVD looks great! XXX is an extremely visual movie and Superbit takes full advantage of the special high bit rate digital encoding process to produce optimal audio and video quality. This is the way you need to see the movie on DVD!

Both DVD’s are 2.40:1 Widescreen Anamorphic, contain English and French subtitles and English (Dolby Digital 5.1 (if you want French Dolby Digital 5.1, stick with the New Years Eve version). As with all SUPERBIT titles, you can get XXX in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, and Thai subtitles. The DVD is closed-captioned and mixed in Dolby and English DTS Surround sound.


Cast:
Vin Diesel
Asia Argento
Marton Csokas
Samuel L. Jackson
Michael Roof
Richy Muller
Werner Daehn.

Credits:
Directed by Rob Cohen.
Screenwriter Rich Wilkes.
Director of Photography Dean Semler.
Production designer Gavin Boquet.
Editors Chris Lebenzon, Paul Rubell, Joel Negron. Music Randy Edelman. Casting Ronna Kress, Kate Dowd.

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