Action Adventure

'xXx: 15th Anniversary Edition' Blu-ray Review: Vin Diesel's franchise-starter gets a definitive release worth owning

February 8, 2017Ben MK

If you've seen xXx: Return of Xander Cage and wondered what was the deal with Vin Diesel's ridiculous fur coat, then you owe it to yourself to see xXx. For not only does the 2002 film provide an origin story for Xander's questionable fashion sense, it also details the super-spy beginnings of the man himself, the titular xXx.

The movie begins in Eastern Europe, where the untimely demise of one of the US government's top spies — at a Rammstein concert, no less — prompts NSA agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to reconsider the organization's hiring practices. Facing an enemy calling itself Anarchy 99 — a Russian terrorist group whose leader, Yorgi (Marton Csokas), plans to strike at the globe's major cities with a biochemical weapon dubbed "Silent Night" — Gibbons decides to think outside the box when looking for America's next counterintelligence operative.

Enter Xander Cage (Diesel), an extreme sports enthusiast with a rap sheet as long as the bridge he recently drove a stolen sports car off of, who would sooner face jail time than spend his time working for Uncle Sam. But when Gibbons makes him an offer he can't refuse — a chance at a clean slate — Xander finds himself signing up to infiltrate Yorgi's inner circle. And soon he's on the next plane to Prague, where his undercover mission has him crossing paths with Yelena (Asia Argento), a deep cover FSB agent whose own mission intersects with his.

Directed by Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious) and scripted by Rich Wilkes, xXx was, at the time of its release, a fresh take on the spy-thriller genre. And, surprisingly, the film still holds up a decade-and-a-half later, in terms of its story, its stunts and its visual effects. Plus, whereas its sequel, Return of Xander Cage, oftentimes resorts to overt self-parody to avoid succumbing to clich├ęs, xXx's satire of its genre brethren is more subtle, making it the superior of the two films (not to mention the middle film in the franchise thus far, xXx: State of the Union).

xXx: 15th Anniversary Edition proves to be the definitive version of the movie, thanks to a newly-minted 1080p transfer that surpasses the 2006 Blu-ray in every regard. Color saturation is robust, from the streets of Prague, to the snowy peaks of the Austrian Alps, to the warm waters of Bora Bora, and deep black levels help the razor-sharp image pop like it never has before. The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix also thrills, delivering crystal-clear dialogue, backed by an industrial rock soundtrack and bolstered by a cacophony of gunfire, explosions, revving motorcycle engines, whirring helicopter blades and more.

Sony's single-disc Blu-ray release includes an UltraViolet digital copy, as well as the following Blu-ray extras, most of which have been carried over from the film's 2006 Blu-ray release. There is one noteworthy addition to the bonus features, however, as denoted below:

  • Commentary with Director Rob Cohen - Cohen talks about how he became involved in the film, his love of Bond movies, the cast, the film's editing style, the costume design, the production design and more.
  • Origins of a Renegade * NEW (6:27) - The cast of xXx: Return of Xander Cage reflect on its predecessor, from the character of Xander Cage, to the action and the stunts, to the locations, to Samuel L. Jackson's role, ending with a look at Return of Xander Cage.
  • xXx: A Filmmakers Diary U.S. / Pre-Production (15:27) - Part one of a two-part documentary looking at the making of the film, focusing primarily on the U.S. leg of the production.
  • xXx: A Filmmakers Diary Prague / Post-Production (25:26) - Part two of a two-part documentary looking at the making of the film, focusing primarily on the Prague leg of the production.
  • Diesel Powered (6:50) - A profile of star Vin Diesel.
  • Visual Effects How To's (3:04) - Three behind-the-scenes looks at some of the film's visual effects ("Creating the Mountain Avalanche," "Creating an Avalanche" and "Shack Explosion").
  • Deleted Scenes (15:51) - Ten scenes, viewable with optional commentary by Director Rob Cohen ("Sam Jackson," "Plane Interior," "The Ivans," "Underworld Club," "Blood Splatter Dart," "Castle Extended/Pole Dancer," "Girls," "Grooming a Scene," "Attack of the Czech Police" and "Bora Bora").
  • Starz! On the Set - The Making of xXx (14:32) - A Starz! special that looks at the characters, the action and more.
  • Agent Shavers' Gadgets Presentation (3:55) - Actor Michael Roof, who plays agent Toby Lee Shavers in the movie, presents some of xXx's gadgets.
  • Designing the World of xXx (14:35) - A look at the film's production design and filming locations.
  • Building Speed: The Vehicles of xXx (6:55) - A look at some of the film's vehicles, from Ahab the solar-powered sub to the 1967 General Motors GTO that Xander drives in the film's climax.
  • Avalanche Scene (5:37) - A storyboard-to-film comparison of the movie's avalanche sequence.
  • Drug Farm (5:08) - Another storyboard-to-film comparison, this time of the movie's drug farm sequence.
  • The End Credit Sequence - Raw and Uncut (3:34) - The movie's end credit sequence, presented here without the text.
  • "I Will Be Heard" by Hatebreed (3:09) - A music video for the song from the movie.
  • "Adrenaline" by Gavin Rossdale (4:18) - A music video for the song from the movie.
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:34)

xXx: 15th Anniversary Edition is available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment as of January 10th, 2017. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Czech, French (Quebecois), French (Parisian), German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin America) and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. The film is presented with English, English SDH, Arabic, Bulgarain, Chinese Traditional, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovene, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Thai and Turkish subtitles. The total runtime is 2 Hrs. 4 Mins.

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