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xXx: Return of Xander Cage (TheaterByte 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)

xXx: Return of Xander Cage 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray + Digital HD PackshotOne has to come into a xXx movie prepared to be thoroughly underwhelmed by any gratuitous plot elements and overwhelmed by the highly improbably action stunts. For those younger audiences (the original xXx was released in theaters 15 years ago) who may not know what this franchise is all about think the X Games meets Jason Bourne, only a really tongue-in-cheek version of the latter. This is actually the third installment in the franchise, but the second, unsuccessful 2005 installment did not feature Vin Diesel, whose character was supposedly dead. Thus he has been ‘resurrected’ for this unnecessary third entry.

The action-seeking NSA agent Xander Cage (Diesel) returns from his faked death to reassemble his xXx team after a rogue group of mercenaries led by Xiang (Donnie Yen) steals a tech gadget called “Pandora’s Box” from the NSA that is capable of seizing control of every satellite in orbit and crashing it. But during the pursuit, another nefarious plot concerning the gadget is uncovered and Cage and his crew find themselves having to work with the enemy to save the world.

You’d be forgiven for being confused about certain details upon which the plot turns, because a lot of it doesn’t really make sense. What also do not make a lick of sense are many of the stunts. The last time we saw Diesel as Cage, he was snowboarding down the side of a mountain with an avalanche pursuing him, among other unlikely scenarios. It doesn’t get any better this time around. We get to see him ski downhill through a jungle with no snow, surf a giant wave – along with Donnie Yen’s Xiang – on a motorcycle converted to some sort of seafaring vehicle, and skydive without a parachute. Extraordinary! It wouldn’t even be believable if Diesel looked as young as he did 15-years-ago. Now, he barely looks like he can keep up, which makes this all the more laughable.

The movie does have one strength and that is the superb cast of international actors, almost all of whom are superstars in their home country, and some are minor if not very well known in the United States, unfortunately, outside of Yen, none of them are really used to their advantage outside of Donnie Yen. Donnie Yen is arguably the most well known of the international lot particularly after his stint in Rogue One, assuming you don’t count the very well established in the U.S. Aussie Toni Collette. Bollywood beauty Deepika Padukone graces the screen and joins Priyanka Chopra as one of the few Bollywood actresses to break through to Hollywood. Let’s hope she gets more roles because she is stunning and seems like she can really act if given the chance in a good role. Thai kickboxing actor Tony Jaa is underutilized and used as a clown while Nina Dobrev of The Vampire Diaries provides some excellent double entendres in her role as the geeky, tech support comic relief. Also on board are Ruby Rose of Orange is the New Black fame, Rory McCann from Game of Thrones and Kris Wu. Samuel L. Jackson makes a couple of minor appearances reprising his role as Gibbons, almost as if he knew this one was just a clunker meant only as a payday.

The Video

xXx: Return of Xander Cage was shot in HD on the Arri Alexa Mini and Arri Alexa XT at 3.4K resolution and a 2K DI was used in the processing stage. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is taken from that 2K master and upscaled to its HEVC 2160p w/ HDR (High Dynamic Range) encodement. The HDR is mastered to a peak of 1000 nits and a minimum of .0001 nits. Although it is not a pure “4K” source, Return of Xander Cage looks gorgeous on the Ultra HD disc thanks to being a pure digital source and mainly thanks to the superb application of the HDR and the extended color palette, which brings out excellent ‘pop’ in highlights like the glistening of lights on water when the xXx team first arrives by boat at night in the Philippines, as one example. The colors look vibrant as well. The opening shot of a satellite burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere and crashing and then segueing to the flames flaring in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant showcase both the excellent highlights of HDR and the more extended color and nuance of the color palette. While this scene still looks sharp with wonderful detail on the standard Blu-ray, the vivid red of the flaming satellite is replaced by a more muted tone as are the flames from the kitchen, which aren’t as orange. The Blu-ray’s shadows are also not as nuanced as the Ultra HD which has nicely extended shadow details with little crush.

The Audio

Both the Ultra HD Blu-ray and standard Blu-ray are provided with Dolby Atmos (compatible with TrueHD 7.1) mixes. As to be expected for a xXx film, these are aggressive mixes that fully utilize every channel for an abundance of discrete effects mixed throughout the soundstage, big low end, and a hyperactive score. The Atmos channels are used superbly for a fully immersive experience and, surprisingly, the mix is not mastered to an ear bleeding sound level, so there is plenty of headroom for dynamics here. The dialogue comes through well also, which is great given the amount of action, explosions, gunplay, and everything else going on.

The Supplements

These EPK-style extras give a decent overview of the cast and the movie’s production while making it seem like the movie is the greatest thing since Mutiny on the Bounty. In reality, none of them is really necessary viewing, but their inclusion is welcome anyway.

  • Digital HD Ultra Violet + iTunes Digital HD Digital Copy
  • Third Time’s the Charm: Xander Returns (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:08:13)
  • Rebels, Tyrants & Ghosts: The Cast (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:20:18)
  • Opening Pandora’s Box: On Location (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:16:10)
  • I Live for this Sh#t!: Stunts (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:15:17)
  • Gag Reel (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:02:12)

The Final Assessment

xXx: Return of Xander Cage does provide the nonstop amusement park ride sort of action the franchise is known for, so points for that. At this point in its life (or rebirth) it doesn’t even pretend to take itself seriously, not that it ever really did. The quality of the Ultra HD and Blu-ray are fantastic, so if you want to show off your gear, this is an excellent choice, just be prepared for your mind to be numbed.

[amazon_auto_links id=”100409″]

3.6 / 5 TheaterByte Rating
{{ reviewsOverall }} / 5 User Rating (0 votes)
PG-13 (for extended sequences of gunplay and violent action, and for sexual material)Rating Certificate
D.J. CarusoDirector
Rich Wilkes (based on characters created by) | F. Scott FrazierWriter
106 Mins.Run Time
$49.99MSRP
16 May 2017Release Date
2.40:1Aspect Ratio
HEVC (H.265) 2160p (UHD) w/ HDR10 | AVC 1080p (BD)Video
English Dolby AtmosAudio
English | English SDH | French | Portuguese | SpanishSubtitles
English Audio Description | French DD 5.1 | Portuguese DD 5.1 | Spanish DD 5.1Secondary Audio
The Creative Content
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements
Summary
The nonstop action will appease fans of willing to shell out the cash to see an obviously aging Vin Diesel reprise his role in this franchise, but the mind numbing plot and terrible use of a great international cast ultimately make this a dud. The great quality of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and standard Blu-ray still provide eye and ear candy for anyone willing to sit through it in order to show off their gear.
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