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XXX
Uncensored Unrated Director's Cut

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, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 132 Minutes
Release Date: April 19, 2005

"Why is it always the a**holes who pass the test?"

Film ***

A new star is stepping into the shoes of agent XXX in the upcoming xXx: State of the Union. With Ice Cube taking over the role left to him by Vin Diesel, but as a whole new character, the time couldn't be better to take a trip back to the original flick with the release of the new Uncensored, Unrated Director's Cut of xXx.

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.

This is essentially a James Bond movie made for a much younger audience, and the movie celebrates this notion cheerfully. Diesel plays 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 different take on the secret agent persona, and Diesel gives Xander Cage a much-needed boost of attitude. The real star of the movie is the action, which at times seems a bit never-ending. Because the movie gets off to a quick start by delivering its ballsiest action sequence early in the movie, and a mammoth one about midway through, the sequences that follow fail to measure up in terms of overall impact.

The one I'm referring to occurs early in the film, where Xander finds himself mistaken as a Columbian drug lord, and eludes trigger-happy forces on a motorcycle in a standout sequence. Our hero dodges gun fire from a pursuing helicopter and does countless leaps, including a jaw dropping over an exploding warehouse. It's a moment that action fans will get a surefire kick from watching.

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. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that this is probably one of the loudest moments I've experienced in any movie. True, the avalanche is clearly a work of CGI, but it's not worth complaining about when the movie happens to be one of the most ridiculously plotted flicks in recent memory. In other words, it's foolish to take it seriously.

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. This is actually not an uncommon problem. Many of the Bond movies end with excessively long action scenes that should be about five minutes shorter.

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 ***1/2

I noticed something of an improvement over the quality of the picture on the original disc. Image is that of a very sharp one, complete with lavish detail - making grand use of the movie's extravagant location shots. I did notice some slight grain in a blue-lit scene set in a night club, but other than that, this is striking piece of DVD video performance.

Audio ****

This remains one of the best reference discs out there. The outstanding 5.1 mix takes advantage of every means to rock a surround sound system. 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 is one of the loudest movies I've seen, and the 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.

Features ****

I thought the original disc for xXx was already a fantastically loaded release. But Sony has upgraded this new Unrated release to a spectacular 2-disc offering.

Disc One includes the new Uncensored version of the movie, complete with 8 minutes of new footage, and yes, there is a shot or two that would've never ended up in the original, PG-13 rated version. Also featured is a commentary track with director Rob Cohen, a Starz On the Set look at the making of the movie, a sneak peak at xXx: State of the Union, as well as a first look at a scene from the movie itself. Rounding out the extras are trailers for xXx: State of the Union, D.E.B.S., and Full Throttle.

Disc Two features an exclusive short titled "The Death of Xander Cage", which bridges the first movie and the sequel, an uncut version of the end credit sequence, 2 multi-angle stunt views, 2 storyboard comparisons, 2 music videos; "I Will Be Heard" by Hatebreed and "Adrenaline" by Gavin Rossdale, and a director's production diary.

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. This new 2-disc offering, with a bigger and badder version, is an outstanding upgrade courtesy of Sony!

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