Movie Review: xXx: Return of Xander Cage (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Delton Cox 29.01.2017 1

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xXx: Return of Xander Cage (UK Rating: 12A)

Following the sleeper success of 2001's The Fast and the Furious, Director Rob Cohen and star Vin Diesel reunited to deliver the most preposterous spy blockbuster of 2002 (and that year already included the awful Die Another Day). Indeed, xXx delivered the extreme, don't-give-a-damn dude-bro attitude of the X-Games Xtreme sports generation with enough explosions, muscle cars, and beautiful bombshells to make Michael Bay heave with envy. Although the film solidified Vin Diesel as a popular go-to action star, he and Cohen opted out of the 2005 sequel - xXx: State of the Union, from the director of Die Another Day - which saw Diesel's character Xander Cage be unceremoniously killed off off-screen and replaced by Ice Cube as an ex-Navy SEAL who performs even more preposterous stunts with the aid of terrible CGI.

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Now, 12 years later, there is xXx: Return of Xander Cage, thanks to Vin Diesel's insistence on resurrecting his other 'dead' franchises using his Fast & Furious clout (2013's Riddick was his first attempt at such). In the film, Cage (Diesel), who is revealed to have faked his own death and now enjoys skiing in the tropical jungle, is called back into action after - minor spoilers ahead - something happens to his past handler, NSA Agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), involving a fallen satellite and the football star Neymar, Jr. A quick emergency meeting by other American Agency Officials, led by CIA Agent Jane Marke (Toni Collette), regarding a device that can down satellites anywhere at any time, is quickly interrupted by the highly flexible Xiang (Donnie Yen) and his team, comprising of other athlete baddies (Deepika Padukone, Tony Jaa, Michael Bisping), break in with style and steal said device. Naturally, Marke seeks Cage's assistance, and the bald badass builds his own team comprising of other rogue athletes like himself (Ruby Rose, Rory McCann, Kris Wu), with assistance by a quirky weapons specialist (Nina Dobrev). Outlandish, if not terribly unoriginal, hijinks ensue.

While Rob Cohen does not return this time around, Director D.J. Caruso (I Am Number Four, Disturbia) keeps the pedal to the metal as he, using a forgettable plot that takes itself a bit too seriously at times, zip-lines from one bout of absurdity to another like a frothy Hong Kong actioner, but his biggest drawback is to let Vin Diesel hijack the entire film. Sure, he's the star, but to have him be the centre of attention from fawning young lasses and mug for the camera every chance he gets squanders the film a little, especially when the ultra-charismatic Donnie Yen threatens to steal the limelight every chance he gets. With his moves and perfect comic timing, Yen has potential to be a breakout Hollywood action star, but Diesel keeps cutting in, not one to be one-upped. To Diesel's credit, his supporting cast is one of the more diverse seen in a big-budgeted Hollywood film in a while, with talents ranging from Bollywood to Asian Action Cinema to even television, but they all take a back seat to The Vin Diesel Show.


 
However, those did not deter enough to write the film off. Unlike the F&F series, which has strayed greatly away from its street-racing roots and further into Pierce Brosnan 007 territory, the xXx series never took itself seriously, always maintaining the 'ridiculous, over-the-top' energy from the get-go, and this one is no exception. In fact, it can safely be said that this one is probably the most absurd entry yet, with a plethora of colourful, vibrant, hilariously overblown action sequences, one of which involves a dirt bike that transforms into a jet-ski, and another - the climactic set-piece involving a cargo plane - that will leave viewers guffawing in stitches at the audacity of it all. An unlikely, but welcome, cameo near the end of the film further adds to the fun.

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

xXx: Return of Xander Cage is not as side-splittingly outrageous as Gods of Egypt, but it still has enough to satisfy hardcore fans of Vin Diesel and xXx in particular, although some of those fans may have outgrown the phase. With its plentiful big-budgeted B-movie action, nice locations, and eye candy, the film delivers what it promises: noisy, lively, aggressively daft fun, and is thoroughly proud of it.

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I find this very intriguing - it's like the F&F series is becoming like Mission Impossible, so now xXx is set to become a bit like 007...

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
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