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xXx: Director’s Cut

Vin Diesel plays the “anti-Bond” in this rollicking spy yarn that draws liberally and unashamed from the classic spy movie franchise.

Diesel is Xander Cage, an “adrenaline junkie” who’s part athlete, part showman, and part self-anointed judge/jury/vigilante. We meet him as he pronounces and performs sentence on a California state senator he deems is “a dick” (and from the brief bit we see of the pol he may be right) by stealing and wrecking his car in a most spectacular fashion.

Xander, known to his friends as “X,” is recruited by the tough as nails agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) who gives him the choice of becoming a secret agent or going to jail (tough decision, eh?) and puts him through a couple of life-or-death tests to see if he has the right stuff to out-Bond James.

Well, as it turns out, X lives for the stuff they put him through and is subsequently sent into action in the Czech Republic, where a group called Anarchy 99 is up to no good.

It’s classic spy stuff, without breaking any new ground, but made fresh by X’s anti-establishment character and Diesel’s strong portrayal of the hero. The stunts are big and spectacular, the cars are fast and furious and the women typical of the genre.

Rob Cohen’s direction is fine for the most part, but we noticed that you have to sit through every big stunt from every angle at which it was filmed and this not only slows down the action but tends to desensitize you from its excitement. Perhaps they had to justify the expense of having all those cameras around by making sure the footage made it to the final film…

We also had problems with the score. While some of it is classic symphonic stuff, a lot of it is hard driving techno and though in places it was necessary for the story, in other places it just gets in the way rather than enhancing the mood unobtrusively.

Still, none of this makes the movie unwatchable and, instead, help showcase the fact that this is meant to be “not your ordinary Bond film.”

So fans of the genre will undoubtedly enjoy XXX. It has explosions, fast cars and fast women, big guns, and a megalomaniacal villain worthy of any Bond movie.

The new director’s cut of the film runs eight minutes longer than the theatrical release, and seems to include every scene that was deleted from the original version. In the eight minutes, we’re treated to several more seconds of unnecessary (but welcome) titillation, a bit more with the Ivans, and most notably, a three-minute scene with Xander and a young-ish boy on an airplane. This scene is a noteworthy inclusion because it was deleted from the first film for several reasons, including pacing, time, and the fact that it makes Xander Cage look like a pansy. And it was rightfully cut.

Audio and video transfers appear to be the same as on the original DVD release, with the new scenes fitting into the picture seamlessly.

For the most part, the extras are the same as well, with the exception of a couple of bits related to the new xXx sequel. First up is a four-minute short titled “The Final Chapter: The Death of Xander,” which justifies having a new actor in the title role this time around by killing off Xander Cage in a way he’d have had no trouble getting out of in the movie. There’s also a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at the new film, plus a scene from it.

The xXx director’s cut is yet another example of marketing. The new version is not as enjoyable as the original, and it serves merely as an excuse to promote the theatrical sequel. If you already own either previous version of the DVD, there’s no reason to purchase the third.

xXx: Director’s Cut, from Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
132 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.40:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Vin Diesel, Asia Argento, Marton Csokas
Produced by Neal H. Moritz
Written by Rich Wilkes, directed by Rob Cohen


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