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XXX

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Vin Diesel, Asia Argento, Marton Csokas, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Rob Cohen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 124 Minutes
Release Date: December 31, 2002

“Dick, you’re a bad man, and you know what we do to bad men, we punish them. Dick, you’ve just entered…THE XANDER ZONE.”

Film ***

Vin Diesel’s career is taking off as fast and furious as a car in a street race, and with the release of the thrill a minute junk fest that is XXX, Diesel may just be on his way to becoming the next big action star of Hollywood. Diesel had previously endured a range of supporting roles dating back to his debut in Saving Private Ryan four years ago, but it was last year’s surprise hit, The Fast and the Furious, that garnered the actor worldwide attention, and now he has reunited with the same director, Rob Cohen, to make what I and many others assume will grow into a long running series of movie adventures, a la James Bond and Mission: Impossible.

XXX is essentially a James Bond movie made for a much younger audience, and the movie celebrates this notion cheerfully. Diesel portrays Xander Cage, an underground extreme sports pro/outlaw who specializes in performing outlandish stunts and pranks, especially on upper class politicians. Xander’s life is soon flipped around when Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), a mysterious NSA agent, comes across the underground legend and makes an offer. Instead of turning him over to the authorities, Gibbons offers Xander a job with the NSA, which involves traveling to the Czech Republic to stop a crazed madman.

With not much of a choice, Xander agrees to take the assignment, and he soon placed undercover as he attempts to gain access on the notorious Yorgi (Marton Csokas), a rouge agent of the evil Czech Secret Service who happens to run his empire right in the Prague Castle (how nice?). Yorgi is as deranged as they come, and is about to plot the unthinkable, which involves the use of biochemical warfare right in the heart of the Czech Republic. While operating his cover, Xander gets more than close to Yorgi’s girlfriend, Yelena (Asia Argento), who may be operating under a whole other agenda.

So as you can probably gather from reading this, XXX is essentially a James Bond movie, with a much younger agent in tow here, and Diesel gives Xander Cage a much-needed boost of attitude. The real star of XXX is the action, which at times seems a bit neverending. Early in the film, Xander finds himself mistaken as a Columbian drug lord, and eludes trigger-happy forces on a motorcycle in a standout sequence. However, the most thrilling of all scenes has got to be where Xander, on a snowboard, throws two grenades on a mountain top in order to start an avalanche to destroy his pursuers. While I applaud these scenes, the anti-climatic moment where Xander must deactivate a bomb on a moving boat didn’t really do anything for me, simply because it took so long to end.

Even though there were two better action films this year along the same lines, Die Another Day and the hugely underrated The Transporter, XXX remains a big bang as far as the genre goes. With this film, Vin Diesel has secured his career for sure, providing a new kind of action hero for the new millennium. The movie is a triumph of lavish scenery, adrenaline pumping action and witty attitude.

BONUS TRIVIA: Asia Argento is the daughter of renowned horror movie director Dario Argento.

Video ***

For the most part, this is a mostly terrific video presentation from Columbia Tri Star. The anamorphic picture is quite clear and crisp for a good part of the running time, but I did spot a few instances, particularly in a sequence that is dimmed with a dark blue to be distractingly grainy. But other than that, this is a neat transfer that makes good use of the movie’s many lavish set pieces.

Audio ****

For a movie loaded with non-stop fury, it must have been a given that the sound quality would pay off, and boy does it ever? XXX ranks among one of the loudest movies I’ve seen, and the 5.1 audio mix will rock the house right from the opening scene. Everything from dialogue, to music (which includes both metal and hip hop), to the jaw dropping action scenes is delivered in sheer perfection. This is one disc that is perfect to show off your sound system with.

Features ****

At first, I thought this was going to be a 2 Disc set, but I was misled, as we have an extremely loaded single disc, so loaded that I’m surprised they were able to fit everything on here. Included is a director commentary, Multiple Documentaries including “A Filmmaker’s Diary Documentary”, “Building Speed: The Vehicles of XXX”, “Diesel Powered”, “Designing the World of XXX”, and “The GTO is Back”. Also featured are 11 deleted scenes with optional director commentary, Visual Effects “How To’s”, Scene Deconstructions, Storyboard Comparisons, the music video for Adrenaline by Gavin Rossdale, trailers, and DVD-Rom material.

Summary:

XXX is quite simply an action lover’s dream come true, thanks to the fueled powered team of Vin Diesel and director Rob Cohen, who know how to make well made action junk.