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Xxx Movie Vin Diesel Action Review DVD



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If Vin Diesel had ever played James Bond previously, this would be his Never Say Never Again. Rob Cohen, director of the equally moronic The Fast And The Furious again brings us popcorn, MTV entertainment that exudes a lot more volume than it does brains. Upping the testosterone level to eleven, and throwing in some low-IQ humour now and again, this is Bond-like, streamlined action made to stimulate those heads that only stay tuned for a couple of minutes. Like a school lesson, the teacher may call your name to suddenly smack you back into reality and take you away from that day-dream about the good-looking brunette sitting two rows behind, XXX acts in pretty much the same principle only without the algebra. While the film pushes the boundaries of suspending disbelief, and has an obviously rushed screenplay there are still bits and pieces that rate quite highly on the enjoyment meter which merit a viewing, but it's a pity the experience wont last long in your memory.

Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is XXX, a brash, energetic, scared-of-nothing criminal that steals from the powerful in more and more elaborate ways, so as to make some kind of youth culture political statement. As you'd imagine, his background doesn't rate highly in the filmmaker's thoughts. Anyway, the National Security Agency begin losing more operatives than they can handle and agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) has the ingenious idea of training ex-convicts to do the jobs they're beginning to hate. Hence the introduction of Cage into the NSA, and after a couple of training missions he's supposedly ready to get undercover, gadget-happy, and licensed to kill the bad boys.

Vin Diesel has the macho to be a credible action hero but his muscles and brawn out weigh his brain and intelligence, and whenever he starts deducing this, that and the other, you get the distinct feeling he's reading it straight off a script. Now while that is his job, any decent actor will testify that every time you do a scene you're supposed to make it look like it's the first time you've ever spoken those words. At times, Diesel looks and sounds like he's had enough for the day and he's clearly tired of choking out the same dialogue. He has also failed to lose, change or diversify the character traits that he's portrayed in other movies such as Pitch Black or The Fast And The Furious, and what we see in Xander Cage is just the same drum roll-pronounced dialogue and blunt facial expressions from his past excursions. Perhaps his best performance was his few minutes of screen time in Saving Private Ryan, because I at least believed he was dead.

The rest of the cast do a pretty good job with what they are given. Asia Argento, in an awfully clichd role, is believable, while Marton Csokas stands out as the chief bad guy. However, you quickly start wondering whether this particular Mr Evil has anything going on upstairs, as he doesn't seem to notice that when the secret agent posing as a car dealer pulls a gun on him with every gadget under the sun attached to it, he still accepts that this guy is in fact a car dealer.

Pretty much every character in the film has been seen elsewhere before, however, the most obvious is the Q-clone, 'here is the pen stacked with enough TNT to blow a small hole in the world' gadget boy with a 'please be careful with that Mr Bond' attitude. Neither the actor playing the part, Diesel, the director or the writer have a clue as to how to inject some originality, freshness, or uniqueness into the part Desmond Llewelyn made his own in the James Bond films. Of course the target audience probably don't know who Llewelyn was, but in a franchise, big money making movie, the bastardization of such an iconic character is difficult to stomach. The fact that any non-Americans seen in the film are just stereotyped, copy and pasted caricatures, also defies any credibility the film tries to instill, making some scenes appear to be either self-mocking indulgence or social parody more accustomed to an Austin Powers type spoof.

XXX shouldn't win any awards, but it probably will, however it can't be denied that some of the action sequences border on the spectacular. Using CGI trickery to make the impossible possible, the director not only uses computer graphics to reasonably good effect, but hits the 'ecstasy' editing pill, with frantic, music video camerawork and frenetic cuts. Writer Rich Wilkes provides some choice lines such as 'If you're going to send someone to save the world, make sure they already like it the way it is', but laughable subtitled Columbian diatribe as 'There's the drug lord. Get him!' shows the simpleminded colours of the film.

The movie has some enjoyable moments, but as a whole, it struggles to find any consistency. It is a film that has been made for the time, a film that has been packaged like a Barbie doll - glossy exterior, slick production, and the right additional accessories. However, this made-to-order movie stinks of desperate execs looking for the quick dollar sign, with sequels, merchandise, spin-off's and any other thing they can think of to squeeze every last buck out of the eye-candy that is XXX.

A brief look at the Region 2 DVD

As you would like to think from a new release of a new film, that the DVD producers have done everything in their power to create a top-notch disc, the immediate thing you will notice is how good the image looks. After being greeted by a snazzy opening DVD introduction, from which you hit enter to proceed to the main menu, playing the film introduces you to a pristine anamorphic 2.35:1 image. Perhaps we should feel privileged to be provided with a widescreen transfer and an abundance of extra material, over a lack of added features and a pan and scan full-screen frame taking up half the disc space. While this DVD is loaded to the gills with additional material, the image doesn't lose out with compression artifacts not causing any problems. The stylised photography looks superb throughout, with scenes appearing vibrant and full of life. Colours are brilliantly rendered, and flesh tones are accurate and clearly defined. The image is crisp and naturally sharp, even during darker scenes when there is a lot of movement on screen. There is a little grain noticeable during some interior shots but this isn't distracting and as you'd expect, the print is in wonderfully good condition.

The sound is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. A DTS track would have worked well with this film, however we don't receive one. The additional features pack this disc, so having another language track would have prevented some of these appearing on the disc, and it's probably down to a matter of taste as to whether you would prefer a DTS track or more added features. As it stands, the DD 5.1 track is more than adequate, in fact it is superb. Dialogue is clear, and is well defined across the front spectrum creating a good surround feel. The rear speakers are used superbly also, with cars crashing behind the viewer and bullets flying every which way. On more than a few occasions the sub-woofer begins shaking the room, and you find yourself drowned in what is a fantastic 5.1 surround track, and forget how bad the film actually is.

A Filmmaker's Diary - Like Paul Anderson's personal video diary for Magnolia, this is one of those additional features on a DVD that the buying public and the fans want to see. Exclusive to the DVD release of the film, this video diary takes on the form of a film crew following the filmmakers every move on set, and in post-production. Director Rob Cohen pops up in interview form anchoring what we see, as well as others including Vin Diesel and writer Rich Wilkes. However, its high production values, crisp editing and pumping soundtrack takes something away from its overall appeal, with the more raw, documentary footage of Anderson's Magnolia diary being more effective. Nevertheless, this is an informative, enjoyable extra feature that looks at the filmmaking process in an intelligent way. It lasts for around forty minutes, and is split into two sections, but there are no separate chapter stops during its playback.

Screen-specific audio commentary by director Rob Cohen - The director has lots to say about the production, the characters within the film, the themes and how the film came into being. Starting off with saying that the premise of this particular movie was the best film idea he'd ever heard, it does make it difficult to take anything he says afterward seriously. Clearly, he hasn't heard many film ideas before, but taking into consideration his previous film The Fast And The Furious you can believe that he is telling the truth.

This isn't a commentary like the Farrelly's 'look, there's Dave, a guy we used to pick on at school!' Cohen does discuss his film intelligently, but at times he makes you wonder whether the film was made for kids to marvel at the flashing lights, explosions and guns, or for academics looking at how to construct the perfect cause and effect narrative.

Building Speed: The Vehicles of XXX (6:56mins) - Crew discuss how they produced the vehicles seen in the film, with behind-the-scenes shots, pictures and computer graphics. As actor Michael Roof raves about one of the cars used in the film, it makes XXX seem even more like a sequel to The Fast And The Furious.

Designing the World of XXX (14.37mins) - Crew discuss set design, production, location, props, costume and computer graphics. Nothing here that other discs haven't included with the usual talking heads, talking pretty much uninteresting information. People who enjoy this aspect of filmmaking may find something to enjoy here.

Diesel Powered (6.51) - Vin Diesel is the best actor since the invention of fiction filmmaking. Or so we are led to believe from this little featurette with everyone involved in the film giving a quick few words about Diesel.

Visual Effects How To's - Three different scenes are looked at, with optional commentary from the visual effects designer. These small segments look at the different plates used to create the finished product.

10 Deleted Scenes - These deleted scenes are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen with time code and unfinished scores. An audio commentary from the director is available for each scene, with option to view the scene with or without the commentary.

Music Video, Filmographies, Trailers - Gavin Rossdale 'Adrenaline' music video; filmographies for Rob Cohen, Rich Wilkes (writer), Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson and Asia Argento; and theatrical trailers for XXX, National Security, and I Spy are included.

Overview

A poor film gets a very good release. The picture and sound are reference quality, and some of the added features are well worth viewing, but overall you wonder whether all the hard work that has clearly been put into making the film and DVD could have been used for something a little more worthwhile. Columbia TriStar should be commended though, for again treating the DVD medium with a lot of respect and producing a disc of high quality. It wouldn't be surprising if they release the film again to tie in with the sequel, but at least this disc has been given good treatment unlike bare-bones affairs such as Panic Room and the upcoming Punch-Drunk Love, where it's guaranteed a feature laden, special edition will be out in the future.

More about this author: Daniel Stephens

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