xXx: Return of Xander Cage Review

January 20, 2017

After more than 11 years, we get the 3rd xXx movie and it’s hard to know what purpose is intended with this movie. Is it here so that Paramount can retain rights to one of the few franchises they have? Is it so that Vin Diesel’s other movies this year look better by comparison? Is this simply a large vat where all of the bad ideas from the increasingly popular Fast & Furious franchise can be dumped? More importantly though, do the producers have anything else on their minds than infeasible feats, girls in bikinis, and showing off people’s muscles? It may have a few creative stunts, but ultimately the movie is unoriginal, boring, poorly conceived, and obsolete.

As is made extremely clear in the marketing material, Vin Diesel plays Xander Cage. This is not a stretch for Diesel at all as we’ve seen this same type of character from him over and over. Even though the name Xander Cage has not been heard by audiences in over a decade, his costars still treat him like a character equal to James Bond or Jason Bourne. Regardless, Cage gathers together a group of “the good, the extreme, and the completely insane” (his words, not mine) in order to stop bad people from getting a bad thing in order to do bad stuff. We’ve seen this charade dozens of times with The Expendables, The Mechanic, The Transporter, GI Joe, etc. The plot really doesn’t matter and as it is explained it either makes less sense or seems more cliche.

The other characters at least moderately interesting. In the main team we have a fast-acting marksman, a DJ distraction, and a crash obsessed driver. They’re certainly no A-Team. They are joined by some previous members of the xXx team, who appear to be far more skilled than Cage’s team and only ever fail because of narrative requirements. It is very nice to see such actors Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Ruby Rose, Hermione Corfield, and Nina Dobrev (who really shines here) on screen again, as well as Toni Collette, Ice Cube, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Of course, no one came to this movie looking for an intricate plot or award winning performances. A few of the action sequences are amusing, but soon these just become insanely unbelievable and mindlessly chaotic. There seems to be no sense of progress. The fighting could go on for another few minutes or be over in 5 seconds. No one knows if the characters are actually winning or losing. Unlike many modern action movies (like Mad Max: Fury Road and John Wick) the action doesn’t have a purpose that drives the story. The part of the movie that may or may not be a plot is just a device to get us to the next explosion or car crash (or extended sequence of scantily-clad women).

As stated before, this movie doesn’t appear to have a purpose, especially since the 8th Fast & Furious will be released within the next 90 days. It is obvious that the target market is just trying to take from that same series. This feels like everything that people dislike about that franchise movies put into another movie, including the mannerisms, the style, the action, and even the music. Brian Tyler (FF 4 – 7, Expendables, Now You See Me) delivers a score that certainly works in context of the movie, but is entirely indistinguishable from much of his other work. If someone copied over his Fast & Furious music, it’s doubtful that anyone would notice.

‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’ is somewhere between a mediocre VFX reel and an ambitious Red Bull commercial. In the end is an insult to good dialogue, characters, plot, or the rules of grammatical capitalization (see the title). It even makes the Transformers movies look engaging. The best to be hoped from this movie is that it helps some of these actors get into better roles and reminds those who would want to see this movie to go see the upcoming ‘Fate of the Furious’ instead.

D.J. Caruso’s action adventure thriller xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE from Paramount Pictures & Revolution Studios stars Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Hermione Corfield, Samuel L. Jackson, & Ice Cube and is out in theaters January 20th, 2017

PG-13 – 1hr 47min

D

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