xXx: Return Of Xander Cage Review

By
x
Movies:
Matt Donato

Reviewed by:
Rating:
3.5
On January 19, 2017
Last modified:January 23, 2017

Summary:

xXx: Return of Xander Cage is more a real life action cartoon than anything else, but holy s*#t does it go for broke.

Watching xXx: Return Of Xander Cage mimics the effect of mainlining a Red Bull/Jolt Cola concoction while you skydive off the Empire State Building with only a handkerchief for a parachute. It’s like Shaun White and Travis Pastrana had conjoining daredevil wet dreams that formed some EXXXTREME tsunami of fantastical X-Games stuntmanship. I imagine someone asking “what about a story?” only to have Vin Diesel grab them by the lapel, hoist them up and say, “how about I skateboard, travel and bed sexy ladies for the first twenty minutes, THERE’S YOUR STORY!” – they complied, of course. That’s the opening to Xander Cage’s adrenaline-packed franchise return, and radness only increases from there broskis and braskis!

Agent Xander Cage’s return is a somber one, since it begins with the death of Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson). Government suit Jane Marke (Toni Collette) calls Xander out of retirement to avenge Gibbons’ death, and retrieve a satellite-crashing device referenced as “Pandora’s Box” – which was stolen by highly-skilled, super-athlete thieves. Now you see why Xander was called upon? Only an xXx veteran has the skills to take down an equally fearless team with similar training, so Xander becomes the world’s only hope. Him and his team of ragtag thrill junkies who are anything but military grade.

So, does the plot sound simple enough? Good, because it should be. There’s nothing in-depth here. You’ve got a nervous government, renegade agents who play by no rules, and equally death-defying villains who hold too much power. A twist or two might present itself (and by twist, I mean “generic plot device that allows for more action”), but xXx: Return Of Xander Cage is all about staking its claim as the most unhinged genre film in years (remember Torque?). D.J. Caruso’s third xXx installment isn’t just off the reservation, it’s in a different galaxy. Hold on to your f*#king butts.

Characters are first presented with video-gamey title cards, that give a brief glimpse into background, likes and skills. Adele Wolff (Ruby Rose) is a teal-haired sniper who gets her jollies off killing animal hunters, Tennyson Torch (Rory McCann) keeps a tally of his crashed vehicles and Nicks (Kris Wu) is just a fun guy to be around. No joke. Nicks’ “ability” is to be a DJ and party on champion levels. Like, he can shoot a gun, but he’s just some kid who sneaks into clubs and presses buttons. What’s even better? Writer F. Scott Frazier commits to this gimmick in LIFE OR DEATH scenarios. During the team’s very first excursion, Nick DJs himself and Xander out of danger. Literally – HE DJS XANDER CAGE TO SAFETY. This kind of millennial saboteur represents a commitment to what xXx: Return Of Xander Cage is all about – not giving a f#*k and embracing the dubsteppy ride.

“These guys really go for gold? I don’t buy it.” Oh really, random naysayer? These are just some of the car-crunching, kick-throwing, logic-defying sequences that Caruso’s team throws together:

Xander jumps off a radio tower wearing skis (flipping off guards as he plummets), plants a perfect landing (without his legs snapping) and glides down a muddy mountainside. Motorcycles morph into jet skis that continue driving through crashing waves. Pro Bowl Tight-End Tony Gonzalez gets thrown out of an airplane not once, but twice. THEY BLOW NEYMAR UP. IN THE FIRST SCENE. Yes, that Neymar (or just Google the name), because Gibbons is recruiting him (cue Neymar soccer-kicking a napkin dispenser at a robber).

You’ve also got Zero-G airplane fighting as a behemoth vessel goes down, brawling amidst a 20-car pileup and countless other crimes against gravity. Dead president jokes, Ruby Rose LAUGHING as amateur hunters are viciously eaten by a lion, and Nina Dobrev’s sexy-techy-who-hates-guns-but-turns-out-to-love-them male fantasy good girl (whose safe word is “kumquat”). But you know what? Caruso never tries to deliver more than balls-to-the-wall fun, and it’s beyond unapologetic.

Enter Xander Cage saying “the things I do for my country,” as multiple cover girls descend on him for an orgy – only two scenes after we see Xander leave a local island girl’s bed because he stole a cable box (you know, so locals can watch soccer!). Yup! Vin Diesel is back, and he’s loving every minute of it. Every conversation ends with a pun (better than other characters who talk only in puns), and there’s an undeniable swagger as he saunters around scenes either with his hideous fur coat draped with viking appeal, or without sleeves, causing Dobrev’s Becky Clearidge to have a verbal meltdown.

Diesel doesn’t have to deliver monologues or witicisms – he throws people out open airplane toilets and remarks “always flush twice.” Do we roll our eyes? Yeah, a little but. Do we also laugh heartily, and get pulled right back in as Diesel then kamikazes said plane into a downward-hurtling satellite? Yeah, 100%. Look no further than a modern-day pirate’s cove interaction to showcase what Diesel offers, a hulking hero with a taste for sweat, braggadocios cockiness and near-death experiences.

Although, xXx: Return Of Xander Cage isn’t just Diesel’s show – international appeal and equal-opportunity asskickery includes many names that American audiences should familiarize themselves with. You already know Donnie Yen from his blind stickman in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but now get to understand his smoldering star power. The martial arts master who goes toe-to-to with Diesel, and makes “trained” assassins look like amateurs. Same goes for Tony Jaa, even if bleach-haired Michael Jackson enthusiast is under-utilized a bit.

Good thing Ruby Rose and Deepika Padukone make up for lost time with their take-down of boys club bullshit (wouldn’t be complete without a slow-walk shooting gallery scene where they pose over and over). These ladies – plus Dobrev and a few others – are far more than eye candy, and would rip your tongue out for saying otherwise. Ogling swimsuit shots aside (also plenty of muscle-bound hunk gazing to balance), Rose and Padukone go to bat for a female characters who reverse and toy with action genre gender norms. Rose’s gymnast exit from a tree could be one of my favorite shots – capped off by a bullet to a henchman’s head.

Then we have Rory McCann as a musical enthusiast crash test dummy? Hells yeah. Michael Bisping as a random white brute? Meh. Ice Cube showing up in Detroit as Darius Stone once again? LET THE CROWD ERUPT, MY FRIENDS. Like xXx #2 WASN’T going to get in on the action?!

Listen – xXx: Return Of Xander Cage is an exercise in excess. A barrage of gluttonous gnarliness. Every intention revolves around franchise appeal, like X-Games Expendables or Fast And Furious with skateboards instead of souped-up rides. Is it as polished as those examples? Not like recent FF films, but I’d argue against recent Expendables films. Is it an injection of awesome that the action genre needs right now? Absolutely. Kick-f*#king-ass. It may be messy, but the parts that matter go for broke with breakneck ambition. Plus, it’s the only sequel ballsy enough to make a direct joke at Marvel’s expense (you catch it at the end). It takes a big set of huevos to nip at big dogs like that – and that’s not even the craziest act in this movie.

Grab on and hold tight, this is one helluva *haplessly scripted* blast.

xXx: Return Of Xander Cage Review
Good

xXx: Return of Xander Cage is more a real life action cartoon than anything else, but holy s*#t does it go for broke.