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Blu-ray Review: xXx

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In one of those undisclosed, unheard government secret organizations that our tax dollars apparently fund, Vin Diesel has been recruited to take down Russian terrorists. He’ll do so in fashion suited for the ADD-impaired, where explosions are as common as bullets. This isn’t intelligent, smart, or even remotely original. It’s overlong, but still fun.

Slapped with the title xXx (apparently because it makes it harder for critics to type it correctly), this action flick from director Rob Cohen is at the least energetic. It does right what his follow-up, big budget bomb, Stealth, failed to do. Action is constant and intense, and the interplay between Diesel and Marton Csokas is hysterically hammy.

Whether intentional or not, Diesel’s wooden, hackneyed performance brings the ridiculous action scenes to life. Like his words, none of this makes any sense. You simply have to stare in awe. Buildings seem to be perfectly aligned for massive motorcycle jumps as they explode. Edits occur to show explosions of unknown origin going up because focusing on something else for more than two seconds would be too long.

xXx deals with action at every turn. Character development? Stuff blows up. Story progression? More stuff blows up. It doesn’t matter whether or not it has any logic behind it. This could have been brilliant parody, as Diesel grinds a rail on a cooking tray while dodging sniper fire from the worst shooter in the history of film – and yet, it’s not. It’s played as straight as a summer action epic can be. It’s hard not to see this as a missed opportunity.

At two hours, this one goes on for far too long. The usual array of government spies have their place in an attempt to give some plausibility to all of this mayhem. Samuel L. Jackson is wasted as Augustus Gibbons, the mysteriously scarred man who acts as Diesel’s new boss. Then again, why bother with a backstory when you cut to an explosion? That’s the mantra of xXx, and if you go in with that expectation, you’ll get exactly what you’re looking for.

All over the place, this HD presentation of the film is never consistent. Darker scenes are riddled with aggravating grain, while the black levels remain steady. Sharpness wavers in every scene. The best rank among the most clear on the format, the worst make it difficult to distinguish between the DVD and Blu-ray. Unfortunately, there’s more of the latter than the former, and the washed out look is a disappointment. Compression is noticeable in the reds, and details are either spot on or completely off.

A strong, powerful audio mix almost makes up for the lackluster video. The avalanche sequence is a true showpiece, filling the room with incredible lows, and the surround work is immersive as possible. Other action sequences are equally impressive, with meaty explosions and gunfire. The soundtrack, as overly loud as it can be, does a fine job of filling the sound field as well.

xXx doesn’t even have a special features menu, just an option to view some trailers. That special director’s cut edition on DVD? It doesn’t exist apparently, as none of those features have made it over. (No stars)

During one of the final scenes, a paraglider is attached to the enemy’s secret weapon as the hero makes an attempt to board it. In doing the stunt, stuntman Harry O’Connor was killed on the second take. He hit the pillar of the bridge. Some of his successful runs of the stunt still make the final cut.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.