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XXX: Special Edition

Vin Diesel knows a lot more about the movie business than folks would suspect. After all, he turned down $20 million to appear in a sequel to The Fast and the Furious. All Vin said was that he knew he'd have to pick a franchise that was appropriate for his talent, and he didn't think Furious was the right property. That might sound a bit nuts, but Vin also had just completed XXX and planted his flag on the film's distinctive logo. Directed by Furious helmer Rob Cohen, XXX concerns Xander Cage (Diesel), an extreme sports hound who performs outrageous stunts on videotape and then sells them online. However, after he steals a politician's sportscar and drives it off a high bridge (base-jumping to safety), his lawless habits draw him to the attention of the NSA and Agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), who has presented his superiors with a Dirty Dozen-style plan to send hardened criminals on dangerous missions. After Xander passes a couple of survival tests, he is then sent by Gibbons on a mission to Prague, where he is to meet a crime syndicate known as "Anarchy 99." Our hero discovers they are dealing in much more than stolen Ferraris — they have, in fact, acquired a Russian nerve agent and their leader (Marton Csokas) plans to send a submarine through European rivers to the largest cities to release the gas on millions of civilians. Meanwhile, XXX butts heads with Yorgi's main squeeze Yelena (Asia Argento), unaware that she has her own secrets to keep. It's hard to criticize XXX, although one easily could do so with little effort. The only problem is that an acrid critic would seem a spoilsport in this instance. Nonetheless, the faults to be found in XXX are many: The dialogue is forced and wooden, the action scenes defy all notions of credibility and the incontrovertible laws of physics, central-casting characters dominate the proceedings, and Sam Jackson just isn't given enough to do. Thankfully, Italian actress Asia Argento fits the bill in the female lead as Yelena, and comedian Michael Roof tackles the 'Q' role of gadget-boffin with welcome bits of comic timing. But the only original casting to be found anywhere is Vin Diesel. As Xander, he's a spy without a cause, a man who saves the world with the swagger and sneer of a detention-hall veteran. He's just cool. Columbia TriStar's DVD release of XXX: Special Edition is a packed item for fans, with a variety of supplements. The anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) is superb, with rich definition throughout, while the booming audio is delivered in a strong Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (in English or French). Included is a commentary track from director Cohen, a Filmmaker's Diary (40:40), four featurettes, a series of three Visual-Effects How To's, ten deleted scenes, filmographies, trailers, and the music video of Gavin Rossdale singing the film's title track "Adrenaline." Keep-case. which actually appears in the film over the closing credits. Keep-case.
—JJB

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