Film Review – xXx: Return Of Xander Cage


Film Review - xXx: Return of Xander CageDIRECTED BY: D.J Caruso

STARRING: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Samuel L. Jackson, Toni Collette, Nicky Jam, Rory McCann, Al Sapienza, Michael Bisping, Ariadna Gutiérrez, Hermione Corfield and Tony Gonzalez

 

SYNOPSIS

Xander Cage is left for dead after an incident, though he secretly returns to action for a new, tough assignment with his handler Augustus Gibbons.

Film Review - xXx: Return of Xander CageExtreme athlete turned government operative Xander Cage, long thought be be dead, comes out of self-imposed exile as the CIA recruit him to race against villain Xiang to recover a powerful weapon known as Pandora’s Box, which can control military satellites which could cause catastrophic damage. Recruiting a group of thrill-seeking cohorts, Xander finds himself caught up in a deadly conspiracy of corruption among world governments including insiders in his own country’s government.

Film Review - xXx: Return of Xander CageThe xXx series burst onto the big screen back in 2002 with Vin Diesel in the title role after his career breakout appearances in Pitch Black and The Fast and The Furious. The sequel, xXx: State of the Union, seen Ice Cube in the title role instead and it ended up being a box office disaster in comparison to the original (xXx made over $277m worldwide, while xXx: State of the Union only made $71m). Somewhere in that decade, Vin Diesel thought it would be a good idea to reprise the Xander Cage role and resurrect the franchise that I don’t think a lot of people were begging to return. But, here we are in 2017 and the question becomes – is the film a worthy return?

 

From the opening scene, xXx: Return of Xander Cage is attempting to go full-on the dumb and fun mode with a cameo appearance from Neymar and Samuel L. Jackson’s Agent Gibbons trying to recruit him to the xXx program. The film fully embraces the ridiculous action set-pieces of the two previous films and tries to completely out do them as much as possible, from skiing down mountains (minus snow) to having the bike chase sequence in the ocean to a zero gravity finale on a plane. Basically it tries to outbond Roger Moore’s James Bond films in that department. In terms of characters, there is a lot of them brought into the fold here and only a few managed to shine for me. The obvious standout was Donnie Yen’s Xiang. His work in the fight and chase scenes are the most realistic of the bunch and the most exciting to watch, mainly for his fight choreography work on show, especially his characters introduction in the film. The other character I liked, surprisingly, was Ruby Rose’s Adele Wolff. I know a few people that give her a hard time, whether it’s her acting ability or personality, but for me this is the first role I’ve seen her in and I thought she played the part of the sharpshooter really well. Deepika Padukone’s performance is fine too and does well in the fight sequences. There is also one cameo (which there is several) that is probably my favourite moment in the film.

 

The problem with xXx: Return of Xander Cage is…well, it’s a bit of a mess really. There will be obvious comparisons to Suicide Squad from this film, believe it or not, right down to character detail breakdowns like they did in DC’s film last year. Vin Diesel’s Xander Cage is the primary focus and somehow he manages to be more annoying than the original for one reason only – they try to make him the coolest person to every walk the face of the planet. From women always wanting to be with him (the Xander ‘Zone’ gangbang, scene missing obviously, to Becky’s first encounter with Xander) to the several one-liners that just didn’t land for me, in comparison to Diesel’s most famous role (Dominic Toretto) he’s just not that interesting a character. There’s a few characters that feel either miscast, entirely pointless or in Tony Jaa’s case, an absolute waste of talent. Nina Dobrev’s Becky character is absolutely irritating, Kris Wu’s Nicks is a solid DJ apparently to use for these missions and seeing Rory McCann (aka The Hound from Game of Thrones) as a car crash maniac was a bit random but still a welcome surprise. The film tries a lot to make the action seem cool, to the point that it feels implausible, even for a film that tries to do ridiculous action sequences. It also tries to world-build a franchise for future instalments too much rather than focus on the actual plot at hand which is paper thin to say the least and some of the dialogue is awful and some of the special effects are rather noticeable.

 

VERDICT

What could be considered a guilty pleasure for some, xXx: Return of Xander Cage just misses the mark of hitting that status for me due to an annoying return of the Xander Cage character which is to have him outdo everyone else in terms of coolness and have everyone share limited screen time to shine. There is a few entertaining action sequences to be had and there is a few performances that I actually enjoyed, particularly from Donnie Yen and Ruby Rose. If we are to get a future xXx film, can we focus on Donnie Yen’s character instead next? 3/10

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