Director : D.J.Caruso
Starring: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev
Return of Xander Cage is the 3rd in the series of xXx movies, starring Vin Diesel as the titular character. It’s been 12 years since the last instalment, State of the Union, which was pretty forgettable; can the latest release bring the franchise back to the forefront?
xXx, for those not aware, is a spy organisation, with the aim of recruiting extreme athletes for the purposes of espionage. This film picks up following the apparent death of the legendary Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), who decides to return back into the game following the death of a close friend.
We follow Xander Cage, as he attempts to retrieve Pandoras Box, a device that can control and drop satellites from the sky at will. The device is stolen by a group of mercenaries from the hands of the government, and it’s a race against time before the device ends up in the wrong hands.
The story is very generic, and there isn’t anything mind-blowing. There is the usual McGuffin that is the goal of the film. In this case, Pandoras Box. The item itself has very little storyline, who created it? Why does it exist? It just does, for the sake of the film. The eventual betrayal in the film is shockingly predictable, and you can see it coming quite early on in the film. The villain isn’t very threatening either, it’s just a random character in the background, who gets like 10 minutes screen time the entire film! They don’t really explain a motive behind why they are doing it, apart from, because they are! Is it for money? for power? for justice? Who knows….
This film is attempting the copy the highly successful template that the Fast films have deployed, using a diverse cast of characters, high octane stunts and a total lack of logic when it comes it any resemblance of a story line! The movie itself is pretty safely nestled under ‘dumb action movie’, if you don’t take the film seriously at all, then you will enjoy it, try to analyse it, and you’ll be left dumbfounded!
The main strengths of the movie is in the characters themselves, especially the scheming Xiang (Donnie Yen), who brings his vast charisma and action to the role, his character is by far the best, and probably even outshines the main star! The rest of the cast are big hitters too, but it’s a mixed bag regarding their characters. Xiang’s team is supported by Serena ,played by Bollywood superstar, Deepika Padukone, making a solid debut in Hollywood and legendary fighter Tony Jaa. But unfortunately Jaa is reduced to very little screen time, and portrayed as comic relief, a waste, considering the potential action scenes with him & Yen.
On the side of Xander Cage, are a bunch of ragtag rebels, but it does feel like most of them could have been cut out form the film. Ruby Rose is wonderful as sharpshooter Adele Wolff. Who is both witty, and highly useful in combat! The other two, ‘getaway drive’ Tennyson (McCann) & DJ Nicks (Wu) feel pretty redundant, and only there to even up the so called teams. With the likes of Samuel L Jackson, Nina Dobrev & footballing superstar Neymar on board, the big doesn’t lack in big names!
If the plot is nonsensical, the action is even more outrageous. If someone isn’t jumping across skyscrapers, and shattering thick glass ceilings, their upper cutting soldiers with a motorbike. If they’re not skating on the side of a bus, their exploding satellites with a plane! It reaches a level where you just know no one will die, they even have the action cliché of two people standing back to back, shooting at all the enemy soldiers that have them surrounded. It’s utterly pointless, but it looks awfully slick. The film is very tongue in cheek, and even demeans itself by referring to the fact one of their new recruits for xXx thought he was joining the Avengers!
The film has the habit of trying to force us to believe the Xander Cage character is wanted by every women that sees him, the opening third shows him with several women, and it does feel like they are trying a bit too hard to make him look so desirable. They also really try to force on the one-liners, which just don’t work with this character. There’s one line that the film pretty much sets up at the start of the film, and when the moments arrives near the climax to use it, it just falls flat.
Overall, the film is nothing special, but it does have several moments that will probably make you laugh out loud, simply due to the sheer audacity of some of the stunts they pull off! With films like this, you tend to overlook the plot & character development, in exchange for the mindless action, and it’s here that it delivers. If you go watch this, knowing what you will expect, than its just harmless cinema fodder, that will pass a couple hours in the dreary January chill!