Starring Vin Diesel, Asia Argento, Samuel L. Jackson, Marton Csokas, Michael Roof, Richy Muller. Directed by Rob Cohen. (2002, 124 min). SONY
Revisiting XXX for the first time since it was released a decade-and-a-half ago, I was reminded of its agenda within the first ten minutes. Thrill-seeking superstud Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) steals a grumpy senator's Corvette in the name of disaffected teens everywhere. Because the senator wants to take away their rap music and video games, Cage drives the man's car off a bridge, riding it like a surfboard before parachuting out of harm's way. He and his crew capture the whole stunt on video to share with the world.
That's XXX's modern spin on the traditional James Bond opening action sequence, which is only fitting when you consider the film's target audience. And I speak from a bit of experience. As a teacher, I remember countless middle school boys returning from summer vacation in 2002 and touting XXX as the greatest movie ever (at least until the next Fast and the Furious flick came along to snatch more of their allowance). For these kids, James Bond was their dad's super spy, not nearly as cool & extreme as tattooed renegade Xander Cage. At the very least, one has to admit Diesel and director Rob Cohen knew their audience.
For nearly everyone else, XXX was a shamelessly pandering attempt to capitalize on Diesel's post-Furious stardom while throwing in everything pubescent boys love...fast cars, fast bikes, fast women, explosions, gravity (and logic) defying stunts, ear-splitting metal soundtrack and an authority-flaunting antihero.
But at its heart, XXX is essentially a good old-fashioned James Bond adventure, albeit with a simpler plot so as not to interfere with the toys. Instead of a suave, sophisticated Brit, we have a streetwise smart-ass who resembles someone who might service your car. As for Diesel...well, he demonstrates his usual range, meaning the difference between Xander Cage, Riddick and Dominic Toretto is negligible.
Still, XXX does its job fairly admirably. I can't speak for how well it has aged over the years because my initial assessment of the film remains unchanged: Mildly enjoyable, ultimately forgettable. For an “expert” opinion, why not ask a former middle-schooler who was blown away back in 2002 and is now pushing 30?
In another effort to restart XXX as a franchise, we're now getting a belated sequel, XXX: Return of Xander Cage (though I feel Diesel may be over-estimating the demand for one). So naturally, this 15th Anniversary Blu-Ray arrives in time to remind us where it all began (cue the trumpets). Those who grew up on this movie may enjoy revisiting their adolescence. Dedicated fans will appreciate the abundance of supplemental material originally included on the DVD, but inexplicably absent from the 2006 Blu-Ray release. However, the only brand new extra is a short promotional featurette that mostly serves to promote the upcoming sequel
NEW: “Origins of a Renegade” - Despite the title, there's nothing really revelatory here, though Diesel appears happy to be back;
AUDIO COMMENTARY (with director Rob Cohen);
- “XXX: A Filmmakers Diary” (pre-production);
- “XXX: A Filmmakers Diary” (post-production);
- “Diesel Powered”;
- “Visual Effects How To's”;
- “Starz! On the Set of Making XXX”;
- “Agent Shavers' Gadgets Presentation”;
- “Designing the World of XXX”;
- “Building Speed: The Vehicles of XXX”
STORYBOARD COMPARISONS (Of two of the major action set-pieces);
ANIMATED END CREDIT SEQUENCE (without the credits...plays like a music video)
2 MUSIC VIDEOS