4K Action

'xXx: Return of Xander Cage' 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review: A triumph of adrenaline-fueled popcorn fun over logic

May 15, 2017Ben MK

As its title implies, director D.J. Caruso's xXx: Return of Xander Cage sees Vin Diesel reprising his role as the titular character, the world's most extreme — not to mention, baldest and most tattooed — government operative. A former thrill-seeking athlete recruited into the NSA to infiltrate a Russian terrorist organization, Xander was presumed dead (killed off in-between the events of 2002's xXx and 2005's xXx: State of the Union). As is often the case in Hollywood, however, you just can't keep a good action hero down.

Now, with a new, more dangerous threat looming, Xander has been coaxed out of his self-imposed exile and brought back into the spy game by a high-ranking CIA heavyweight named Jane Marke (Toni Collette). His mission this time: to retrieve a high-tech McGuffin called Pandora's Box, before it falls into the hands of a group of highly-trained and extremely-lethal ex-mercenary types (Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Tony Jaa and MMA fighter Michael Bisping), who — as Xander has been informed — plan to use the device to wreak havoc on a global scale.

Of course, when it comes to international espionage, nothing is quite as it seems, and as Xander soon rediscovers, adversaries can become allies in the blink-of-an-eye, and vice-versa. Teaming him with a crew of "good, bad and extreme" accomplices (Orange is the New Black's Ruby Rose, The Vampire Diaries' Nina Dobrev, Game of Thrones' Rory McCann and Kris Wu), the result has no trouble meeting the genre's quota for globetrotting action and bombastic pyrotechnics; however, it's the series' ridiculously over-the-top stunts that supersede it all.

That being said, if you're going to derive any enjoyment from xXx: Return of Xander Cage, then you really ought to know what you're getting into. To put it bluntly, if you're expecting anything more than a shallow plot and line after line of eye-roll-inducing dialogue, then you're better off looking to the Ethan Hunts or the James Bonds of the world for your fix of cinematic escapism. Otherwise, if you want to party like it's 1999 and you relish the idea of a dude punching another dude in the face with the front tire of a motorcycle, then this is the movie for you.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage explodes onto Ultra HD Blu-ray with a thrilling and totally satisfying 4K presentation, boasting a crisp, film-like image and vibrant HDR coloring. Whether the action is unfolding amid the tropical jungles of South America or the urban jungle of Detroit, image quality is consistently impressive, thanks to an abundance of on-screen detail and an eye-popping visual palette, ranging from deep blue ocean waters to neon-lit raves. Turning to the audio, one would be hard-pressed to find a better way to experience the movie than with the disc's Dolby Atmos sound mix, which allows every element of the action-oriented sound design to resonate with crystal-clarity. From the hip hop/electronic soundtrack, to automatic gunfire, ricocheting bullets and explosions, not to mention an endless flurry of punches and kicks, Return of Xander Cage makes for a fun and memorable aural experience.

Paramount's two-disc Ultra HD Blu-ray release includes an iTunes digital copy, as well as a Blu-ray copy of the film. There are no special features on the 4K disc, but the following extras can be found on the Blu-ray:

  • Third Time's the Charm: Xander Returns (8:13) - The cast and crew reflect on the original film and what it was like to bring Xander Cage back to the screen.
  • Rebels, Tyrants & Ghosts: The Cast (20:18) - A look at the movie's characters and the international cast who portray them: Vin Diesel, Ruby Rose, Kris Wu, Rory McCann, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Tony Jaa, Michael Bisping, Toni Collette, Nina Dobrev, Ice Cube and Samuel L. Jackson.
  • Opening Pandora's Box: On Location (16:10) - Director D.J. Caruso, Production Designer Jon Billington and Director of Photography Russell Carpenter discuss the logistics and challenges of creating the illusion of global scale while filming only on soundstages in Toronto and on-location in the Dominican Republic.
  • I Live for This Sh#t!: Stunts (15:17) - A behind-the-scenes look at making of the film's extreme action, from skiing through the jungle, to the motorcycle stunts, to a fight sequence set in zero G.
  • Gag Reel (2:12) - Flubs and goofs from the set.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage is available from Paramount Home Entertainment as of May 16th, 2017. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray features English Dolby Atmos, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 47 Mins.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on January 20th, 2017.

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