xXx: The Next Level (xXx: State of the Union) (2005)

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Released 5-Sep-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Trailer-Man Of The House, D.E.B.S.
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Dolby Digital Trailer
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers'
Audio Commentary-Visual Effects Crew
Featurette-Making Of-From Convict To Hero
Featurette-Bullet Train Breakdown
Featurette-Top Secret Military Warehouse
Featurette-xXX: According To Ice Cube
Deleted Scenes-With Optional Director's Commentary
Trailer-Bewitched
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 96:49 (Case: 101)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (48:46) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Lee Tamahori
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Ice Cube
Samuel L. Jackson
Willem Dafoe
Scott Speedman
Peter Strauss
Xzibit
Michael Roof
Sunny Mabrey
Nona Gaye
John G. Connolly
Ramon De Ocampo
Barry Sigismondi
Michael Don Evans
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Marco Beltrami


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Arabic
Bulgarian
Croatian
Czech
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Romanian
Serbian
Slovenian
Turkish
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    If xXx 2: The Next Level, sounds like a video game, wait until you see the film, which is all about eXXXplosions. Indeed, you'll need a small crane to help you suspend your disbelief in the story. If xXx was like James Bond meets Tony Hawk, then xXx 2 is like James Bond meets Wile E. Coyote.

    The first problem xXx 2 has is that there is no Xander Cage (Vin Diesel). As I mentioned in my review of xXx: Director's Cut, as with any true movie star, Diesel can make an otherwise rather ordinary film exciting and interesting. With his muscular swagger, gravelly voice, wry one-liners and laid-back style, Diesel's presence alone made The Fast and the Furious watchable. If there's any doubt about this, consider the lacklustre sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious that sank quickly without him.

    Early in  xXx 2 we're told Xander was killed in Bora Bora, which of course conflicts with The Final Chapter: The Death Of Xander included with the xXx Director's Cut. Personally, I think this film's opening would have been vastly improved if it had included the death of Xander - even if Xander was played by another actor.

    As I mentioned previously, xXx is a little bit like James Bond meets Tony Hawk. While the Bond-like sexy and dangerous girls and the nihilistic and nasty villains with henchmen are all still here, the gentleman secret agent risking his life for his country has been replaced for a far more cynical generation in a post-9-11 world.

    However, the Producers of  xXx 2 and James Bond Director Lee Tamahori abandon the xXx extreme sports theme and decide to go way-over-the-top with a new xXx and a series of ridiculous, implausable stunts, explosions, and some very cheap-looking CGI with dodgy compositing. While some of the sets and stunts are impressive, just about everything in this film looks fake, artificial, and unnatural. But then again, in this world the President quotes dead rapper Tupac.

    In xXx 2, the NSA, and indeed US democracy, is under attack. After the NSA's not-so-secret base is invaded by mysterious Special Ops commandos, NSA Agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) flees in a muscle car and recruits an unjustly imprisoned Darius Stone (Ice Cube), a former Navy Seal and Special Forces soldier, to become the new xXx.

    Sadly, Cube has none of Diesel's charisma, and he is certainly no Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger or The Rock. Throughout this movie, Cube's grumpy sneer never seems to leave his face. Indeed, in terms of acting, he has two expressions - he can raise his left eyebrow, or his right eyebrow. I found it hard to accept Cube as a Navy Seal or Special Forces hero. While he's a fairly big bloke, the tubby Cube doesn't look particularly fit, and often appears awkward on-screen. Anyway, despite his tubbiness, his body seems to defy gravity in this film as he leaps and dives miraculously and effortlessly throughout. Also, despite having been in prison for almost a decade, Darious strangely seems to be very comfortable with all the latest high-tech weaponry and gadgetry.

    Fortunately, Jackson and Willem Dafoe (as the sinister Secretary of Defense) help carry the film in the acting department, and make the most of the ridiculous action-movie cliché lines the cartoonish script provides. Comedian Michael Roof also makes a welcome return as the comic sidekick Agent Shavers.

    In the movie's wafer-thin plot, when the President (Peter Strauss) and US democracy is threatened, somehow Darious and his old chop-shop homies from the 'hood rise up as patriots and flag-waving heroes in their car-jacked tank against the power of the white military-industrial complex.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The transfer is very good. It was a pleasure to watch this DVD on both a widescreen television and with a DLP projector. As with xXx, if you can watch this DVD with a projector, I encourage you to do so, especially for the over-the-top stunts.

    The transfer is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness is generally very good. For example consider the detail in the pattern of the large floor rug at 39:44. The black level is excellent. The shadow detail is very good overall, such as the shadowy house interior at night at 26:41.

    The colour is excellent throughout, with a well-saturated colour palette and accurate skin tones. That said, there seems to be a lot of digital grading throughout this film, which occasionally adversely affects some of the colours in the 'night' shots.

    While some grain is present occasionally, there are no problems with MPEG, film-to-video, or film artefacts. Rarely some edge enhancement is noticeable, but I never found it distracting.

    English, Arabic, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Romanian, Serbian, Slovenian, Turkish, English for the Hearing Impaired and English Audio Commentary subtitles are provided. The English subtitles are accurate.

    This is a Dual-Layer disc, with the layer change placed at 48:46, which is well-placed between scenes.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This movie is loud and crammed with explosions, and the audio quality does it justice.

    There are a few audio options on this DVD: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    As the characters are often in helicopters, on top of trains or in speeding cars, there is extensive use of ADR, but the dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent throughout on the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.

    The movie's instantly forgettable orchestral musical score is credited to Marco Beltrami, but the movie is dominated by hip-hop tunes. There is also an appearance by the group Bond, who also provide some source music in one scene.

    As one would expect, this movie has a very aggressive surround presence, with plenty of surround activity. The rear speakers are used effectively to help carry the score and provide ambience throughout, such as the ambience in the restaurant at 33:36 or the fire fight at 55:41. There are also plenty of split-rear directional effects, and panning between speakers throughout, for example the car passing at 38:55 or the helicopter at 56:01.

    The subwoofer is also utilised very effectively throughout, such as the massive explosions at 22:59 and 29:52.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are some decent extras included, most notably the two audio commentaries.

Menu

    Animated with audio.

Forced Trailers

Audio Commentary 1

    Director Lee Tamahori, and Writer Simon Kinberg provide a screen specific commentary in which they admit the film is a "summer action movie" aimed at an audience of young males. They also discuss the characters and story, and how they wanted the sequel to differ from the original.

Audio Commentary 2

    The movie's VFX Supervisor and CGI Supervisor provide a screen specific commentary, looking at the film's use of models, sets, locations, green screen, and CGI work. There are some interesting points on how CGI can now easily fix sloppy continuity and other filming mistakes.

Featurette - Making Of - From Convict To Hero

Featurettes

There are three short featurettes.

Deleted Scenes

    There are three deleted scenes with optional Director's commentary.

Trailers

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    xXx 2: The Next Level was released on DVD in Region 1 as xXx 2: State of the Union. Our versions appear to be the same in terms of DVD content, but I understand that the R2 theatrical release and DVD had some censorship cuts. At this stage I can't confirm if any scenes were trimmed in our version.

Summary

    xXx 2 is all about bling bling, and boom boom.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras are decent enough.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Friday, September 09, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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