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Review: xXx: Return of Xander Cage

xXx: Return of Xander Cage
01.19.2017
7 10

xXx Return of Xander Cage Vin Diesel review Samuel L Jackson Kris Wu

PLOT: Former extreme sports athlete and NSA spy Xander Cage is lured out of retirement when a powerful, globe-threatening device is stolen by a group of highly-skilled thieves. After cobbling a team together, Xander must track down the device. But is he playing for the right team?

REVIEW: xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE makes the first xXx look like SKYFALL. The FAST & FURIOUS movies are downright Shakespearean in comparison. It's immature, goofy, daft as hell... and I smiled almost the entire time. The childlike glee with which xXx 3 gives the middle finger to logic and good taste can only be admired, and because it only wants to be enjoyably preposterous you can't claim it doesn't achieve its goals.

The film's big deal of course is that it marks the return of Vin Diesel to the "franchise" after sitting out the second film. (Hard to believe xXx came out 15 years ago, but a recent look at it confirmed it's already dated. That music, yikes!) While the original maintained something of a dark edge and an actual plot, xXx 3's story is about as threadbare as a used Kleenex. Director D.J. Caruso and screenwriter F. Scott Frazier make no illusions that their movie is anything other than a series of insane action sequences featuring a very diverse, international cast performing thoroughly impossible physical acts, usually while laughing. If you're on board with that, and I was about five minutes into it, than xXx 3 provides a pretty good time. Your rational brain may not forgive you later, but f*ck it.

The story involves a device forebodingly called "Pandora's Box," which can unlock the personal information of every person on the planet, or something along those lines. It can also crash satellites with ease, which happens a handful of times in the movie; we're treated to the line, "They're going to crash a satellite down on you!" (The response: "They're going to crash a satellite down on us!") Doesn't really matter what it is, it's sought after by the good guys and bad guys. The U.S. government - personified here by Toni Collette who often wears an expression of "what the f*ck am I doing here?" - desperately needs it back after it's stolen by an agile group of thieves led by Donnie Yen (fairly badass, as can be counted upon). Naturally, there is no one Uncle Sam can turn to other than former extreme sports athlete Xander Cage, who is currently enjoying a quiet, low-key life in Brazil. (If you consider skiing down radio towers and mountains low-key.) Xander reluctantly accepts the invitation back to the NSA, but with the caveat that he gets to choose his own team.

This team of Xander's pretty unusual... not to mention XXXtreme! Ruby Rose is Adele, an ace with a sniper rifle and a walking one-liner. (Rose has not one quote of substance in the entire movie.) Rory McCann (The Hound from Game of Thrones) is Tennyson, a stunt driver who crashes almost every car he's put in. Not the most practical getaway driver, but oh well. And then there's Kris Wu as Nicks. Nicks is a DJ. His specialty is "having fun." His big moment in the film comes when he takes over DJing a party and helps Xander out of a jam. I don't quite know what he brings to the table other than this, but if any movie would add a DJ to its team of highly-skilled spies, it's xXx 3.

You see where this is going. xXx 3 takes place in a reality Bugs Bunny would find absurd and predominantly consists of frenetic action scenes where the characters ride motorcycles on water, play hot potato with grenades, shoot untold amounts of people, have zero gravity fights in crashing airplanes, and so on. All of this is ridiculous and entertaining; you can't reasonably expect anything else from a movie of this sort. When there are no fights or stunts on screen, xXx 3 is forced to make its characters engage in conversation. There are two kinds of dialogue in this film: one is boring exposition, most of it courtesy of Collette, who will frequently spice it up with a curse word or particularly exaggerated look of annoyance. All other conversations consist of puns, double entendres, wisecracks, catchphrases and sexual innuendo. Some of these lines are so cheesy they'd make a 13-year-old roll their eyes. The actors all look self-satisfied while dishing this stuff out, as well they should. If you could get paid millions to say some of the things these folks do, you'd do it too.

xXx Return of Xander Cage Vin Diesel review Samuel L Jackson Kris Wu

Diesel is having fun, clearly. He often looks so sour during the FAST & FURIOUS movies that you forget he's actually capable of smiling and being good-natured. His supporting cast is charismatic enough, with the standouts being Yen, who gets to show off his astonishing dexterity at 53, and Nina Dobrev, of all people, who provides some surprising comic relief as a computer geek with a sizable crush on Xander. Tony Jaa plays Yen's right-hand man but unfortunately doesn't get to display his impressive physical skills as much as you would hope. Samuel L. Jackson shows up just long enough to do a predictable Sam Jackson routine, with a curious nod to Nick Fury to boot.

For all intents and purposes, xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE is a cartoon. As stated, it's even more laughable than the previous installment (sadly, I've not seen the second chapter of this story), but it completely owns its identity. There's no defending it other than to say it provides a brain-dead diversion for almost two hours, and it makes you laugh, mostly intentionally. This real world of ours is a scary, confusing place... so maybe Xander Cage is the hero we need after all.

Source: JoBlo.com

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