Sunday, January 22, 2017

xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)



Director: DJ Caruso

Notable Cast: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Toni Collette, Samuel L Jackson, Nicky Jam, Rory McCann, Michael Bisping, Ariadna Gutierrez, Hermione Corfield, Tony Gonzalez, Neymar Jr.

Fifteen years is a long time. In the grand spectrum of things it’s not a super long time, but for a franchise like xXx, it’s long enough to create a James Bond meets X-games knock off, lose your key star who refuses to return, try and replace him in an inferior sequel, die, become a footnote in the history of the action films, allow said original star to revitalize two of his other franchises, and then recruit a series of new talent and the original star back for a surprise third entry. A third entry that, in all seriousness, is easily the best of the franchise. “How can this be,” you ask. “How can xXx: Return of Xander Cage exist?” Considering that Vin Diesel has elevated two of his other franchises (The Fast and the Furious and Riddick) from the bowels of hell, is it that odd? What does make it odd is that Return of Xander Cage is so much fun. While the first two entries have their merits as B-movie entertainment, they leave a lot to be desired, but Vin Diesel has learned a lot from the re-emergence of his other two franchises and takes those lessons to heart for this third entry. It’s not as good as either of those series, just in principal it lacks a sense of grounded seriousness, but Return of Xander Cage is outrageously entertaining. What can I say except that, despite some very distinct eye rolling at the first third of the film, I had a blast.


Xander Cage (Diesel) has been living off the grid for years, but when a device called Pandora’s Box is used to bring down a satellite to kill a key member of the xXx program, a CIA member (Collete) reactivates him to find the system and bring down a group of terrorists lead by Xiang (Yen) before it can be used again.

My favorite scene in the whole film: hot potato with grenades.
The original xXx film was one that took itself way too seriously to its own detriment. This third entry, however, does not make that mistake. In fact, it might even go as far as to use the timely “spin” that made the first one so eye rolling as a platform to launch this series in a new era as it pokes fun at its own history and uses it as a meta commentary. They even bring back Xander’s stupid fur coat for a couple of laughs. Return of Xander Cage does attempt at transitioning the X-games focus of the original towards a Fast & Furious focus in the film and it makes the first act a bit shaky. We get a few sequences that reference its roots, including a scene where Samuel L. Jackson oddly attempts to describe what the xXx program is (for those new to the franchise) and a ‘race the clock’ sequence that has Vin Diesel ski and skateboard through forests and small towns as he steals a receiver for some locals. The film moves quick enough though that it doesn’t spend too long reminding us why we all thought the original one was dumb and it establishes its new approach, with its own gimmicks, soon after.


This new approach is easily inspired by the success of the Fast & Furious franchise by giving xXx another round of terrorists to battle and a team to help him out. This is where Vin Diesel and company showcase what they’ve learned in the last handful of years. They pick a director who genuinely enjoys the action he is showcasing and they litter the film with a massive amount of charming talent. The cast, just in itself, is worth seeing the movie for as they all seem to be having the time of their lives making it. It’s also quite the diverse casting and that benefits the film as well by giving everyone colorful backgrounds and letting them use their talents. It always helps when Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa are used in the cast (although the latter isn’t utilized to his full talents) and they both fit right in with the group. I must give them credit though, the entire cast rocks and choices like Ruby Rose and Deepika Padukone add a lot of life to the proceedings. There are also a handful of surprises in store that add to the entertainment value of the film.

 If there is anything that Return of Xander Cage does well, it’s that the film has fun doing everything and that fun is infectious. This includes a multitude of the action scenes and its over the top dialogue. Most of them are dumb, certainly, but the film embraces the silly lines of dialogue, outrageous physics defying action, and frantic pace in the best of all possible B-movie ways. Did I ever think I was going to see Vin Diesel have a fist fight with ex-NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez in zero gravity? Hell no, but I’m glad I got to see it. Occasionally it can be a bit much, the finale features one of the best “convenient” plot progressions and one of the worst “convenient” plot progressions in the span of ten minutes, but when the film is having as much fun as it is with it, who am I to call it on its bullshit? Just buckle in and run with it.

Two very worthy action heroines.
Say what you will about this third xXx film, but Return of Xander Cage takes all the silly things about the original, spins them in a modern manner, pokes fun at itself, and just runs with its silliness all the way with impressive action and wink to go with it. It’s not perfect, far from it, but for those with the right mindset to embrace the dumb gimmicks, then this film is a blast to watch. One of those great B-movies that Vin Diesel has been so keen on making lately. Here’s to hoping that it reignites this series too.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

No comments:

Post a Comment