Directed by: D.J. Caruso
Starring: Vin Diesel, Nina Dobrev, Samuel L. Jackson, Donnie Yen, Ruby Rose, Toni Collette
If you listen to the producers you’d believe that fans and filmmakers alike have been clamoring for the return of xXx and Xander Cage in particular.
The original film was directed by Rob Cohen back in 2002 and followed Xander Cage, an extreme sports athlete recruited to an elite Special ops program. Spoiler alert, when the second xXx film came out it was revealed that Xander Cage had been killed. So, he just faked his own death to get out of the program. In this film circumstances not only reveal that he’s still living but that he must return to the xXx fold.
A group of super spies steal a device that could pose an epic threat to the world. Since we are talking, a group of super spies Cage has to build his own team to bring to the fight. As you might expect his team members are all extreme renegades. Each one of them, and nearly everyone else literally just exist in awe of Xander Cage and his abilities. It would be kind of fun if the movie didn’t take itself so seriously and this was meant in jest, but the “story” is not only a convoluted mess but it plays it purposefully straight. There are moments of attempted levity or campiness but they just fall flat because the movie just doesn’t know what it wants to be. What should be a pretty simple story is riddled with unnecessary and poorly rendered twists and turns and a bevy of underdeveloped and confusing characters.
Perhaps the worst failing of the film is that the action just comes off bland. While the first film wasn’t exactly good, it didn’t take itself seriously, and there was a level of cool people being cool to the action. Vin Diesel is a likeable guy with his own level of charisma but it’s just not enough to carry this film, especially when it’s muddied by the very similar Fast and the Furious franchise. A movie like this can be bad but it should definitely not be boring, sadly this one is boring. Vin is great and Ruby Rose is always fun but they have no chance of making this film entertaining.
This 4K UHD presentation is a solid reproduction of the over the top, for me annoying, color palette found in the theatrical release. The best compliment I can give is that this film truly looks like the theatrical release with razor sharp detail, low color noise, and inky blacks. The sad part is that the image is only minimally better than the blu-ray, which is also included in the set. The intense color palette including all of the ridiculous orange looks as it should, blacks are solid throughout, and detail is extremely high. This film was mastered in 2K so what we have here is an upscale to 4K. It looks great for sure, but again only incrementally better than the blu-ray.
If you have the system for it this soundtrack will rock your home theater. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack has boomy lows from the subwoofer, great use of the entire sound stage for fx, music, and dialogue. The calmer scenes still feature clean and clear dialogue. It occurred to me that I literally understood every word uttered by Vin Diesel; not always the case with other films. Even on a standard sound bar the balance is clean and distortion free. This is easily one of the best sounding 4k discs yet.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The cover art is not memorable, basic floating head fare. The two discs, a blu and a UHD are inside the standard slim black UHD case. There are actually several lengthy featurettes covering everything the history of the franchise, how this film combines all of the films into one continuous universe, the cast, and the stunts. Listening to the filmmakers talk about the character and the story they truly feel like they are making a statement with this story and the franchise, the totally wrong way to go with this character. There’s a lot here for fans though. All of the bonus features are found on the blu-ray disc though, nothing exclusive for us early adopters.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Xander Cage is just a character that should not exist. He’s just too similar to his doppelgänger in the Fast and the Furious franchise, and generally that franchise is just better, even though those films are often not great too.
For those looking to demo their new 4k system for non believers this is a pretty god option. Sure, the video isn’t much better than the blu-ray, but the blu-ray image is stellar so any incrimental upgrade from that is important, and the audio is fantastic. Again, great bonus features here for fans of the franchise.