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Awfully Good: XXX: Return of Xander Cage

If KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE ends up being a disappointment, here's another recent spy sequel that won't let you down...

 

XXX: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

 

Director: DJ Caruso
Stars: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone

Xander Cage returns from the dead to give boring action movies a kick in the groin.

The 15 years since the first XXX have not been particularly kind. The extreme sports version of James Bond wasn't even really cool by the time 2005's XXX: STATE OF THE UNION came out. And in an era where most action films ten to focus on gritty realism, the revival of Vin Diesel's forgotten franchise seemed like a movie nobody really wanted.

To prove us all wrong, the filmmakers went all-in, producing a movie that is somehow more insane and willfully stupid than the original. (And even dumber than Diesel's last couple FAST AND FURIOUS flicks.) In fact, XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE feels like a return to the ridiculous action movies of 90s, from the logic-defying stunts to the freeze-frame title cards every time a new character is introduced. It's a truly glorious piece of braindead entertainment that seems to revel in every cheesy line and "Wait, what?" moment.


A message for the audience members expecting common sense and logic.

What hasn't held up, ironically, is the star himself. Xander Cage may be a globetrotting badass, but there's something less cool about seeing a 50 year old Vin Diesel skateboarding like a teenager and having orgies with girls one-third his age. (Not to mention his signature fur coat now makes his bulky frame look like Santa Claus.)

The film tries its best though, doing everything in its power to make Diesel come off as awesome as possible, including but not limited to:

  • Skiing through the jungle without immediately face-planting
  • Having a motorcycle chase on the ocean
  • Playing a game of tabletop chicken with live grenades
  • Throwing a man with super powered Iron Man gloves through an airplane toilet
  • Getting in to a zero gravity fight that lasts impossibly long
  • Tossing a group of highly decorated military war heroes out of a moving plane because F*CK THOSE GUYS

 


Someone's ready for the SANTA CLAUSE remake!

Diesel's contract also clearly stated that every female character he comes across in the film has to be intensely attracted to him, to the point of hilarity. XXX steals cable so his village can watch a soccer game, so of course a nearby supermodel immediately sleeps with him. He goes to visit the world's best computer hacker (also a supermodel) and all six of her supermodel friends immediately sleep with him without saying a word. His tech specialist assistant at the NSA (another beautiful girl, natch) immediately tells him about her sex swing and safe word within 10 seconds of being introduced. And finally, when he meets another female XXX agent (model/Bollywood star Deepika Padukone), the two compare tattoos before Diesel flashes her a nipple and they immediately fall in love. It must be nice being the producer of your own movie.


Even Vin Diesel would admit he's starting to phone it in.

The international cast provides some nice diversity, but most of them are completely worthless as members of XXX's team. Ruby Rose is a great sniper, so I get that. But I have no idea what the writers were thinking when they came up with the rest.

"Let's get The Mountain from Game of Thrones. He can, uh, be really good at crashing vehicles in to things! His name is The Torch!"

"We need to cater to the young crowd. What if one of them is a DJ whose only talent is he's 'fun to be around?' And he's Asian, so we'll call him Harvard."

"Is the guy with the elbows from ONG BAK available? We can give him a white fauxhawk and call him Talon, and just have him make funny faces and noises the whole time. We're geniuses!"


John Woo's LITTLE WOMEN did Louisa May Alcott proud.

At least the film makes great use of legendary badass Donnie Yen, who ends up being the highlight of XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE. His few real and exciting fight scenes make up for all the gimmicky stunts and CGI action from Vin Diesel's stuntman. Even if the movie continually confuses "being good at martial" arts with "being superhuman." I say this because the first time we see Donnie Yen, he jumps off a building and crashes through a glass ceiling many stories below, then proceeds to kill dozens of men—all without a scratch. Later on, someone even points out the ridiculousness of his jump ("70 feet across, 90 feet down"), as if daring you to wrap your brain around it.


Vin reminds the cast and crew that everyone gets one joke about FIND ME GUILTY and that's it.

I haven't mentioned the plot yet because the film's MacGuffin, a "Pandora's Box" that crashes satellites to assassinate people, shows that they clearly put as much thought in to the story as an actual XXX porn movie. The script isn't any better, full of dreadful one-liners and painful banter like this:

"You're worried about pawn sacrifice. I've got my eye on the king."
"That's the problem.
[fires gun] You forgot the queen."

There's such a smug satisfaction and confidence to how bad the writing is and how the actors deliver it, that you have to give everyone credit. At one point, Diesel makes a really awkward speech involving math and a toilet, just so half an hour later he can throw a guy out of an airplane via the bathroom and make a callback joke about it taking two flushes. RESPECT.


Ice Cube patiently waits, knowing his time will come again.

I do wish that the best part of the entire movie wasn't spoiled in the trailers. But since it was, I'll reference it here: At one point, Vin Diesel gives his team a phone and says to press 9 if they get in trouble. Eventually, they get caught in a shootout and press 9 and, within minutes, Ice Cube shows up as his character from XXX STATE OF THE UNION and blows up all the bad guys. Words cannot express how much I love the idea that Ice Cube has been sitting around for 12 years, patiently waiting with a grenade launcher for someone to call him.

Now hopefully this will all lead to the XXX shared universe we want and deserve.

"Rock. Paper. Scissors. Grenade launcher." And other examples of the fine, fine writing you can expect.

Some of the dumbest and most fun action moments. Also, Donnie Yen being a badass.

Enjoy this nice close up of Vin Diesel's weird-looking nipple.


How X-citing! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • A title card comes up
  • The laws of physics are defied
  • A woman throws herself at XXX
  • The Mountain crashes a vehicle
  • Someone is thrown out of an airplane
  • Donnie Yen kicks the ever-loving shit out of someone

Double shot if:

  • Someone says "X takes care of its own"

 

Thanks to Casey for suggesting this week's movie!

 

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.

Extra Tidbit: Jet Li was originally supposed to play the Donnie Yen role, but opted to stay retired.
Source: JoBlo.com

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