Thursday, 19 January 2017

xXx - Return of Xander Cage: Film Review

xXx - Return of Xander Cage: Film Review


Cast: Vin Diesel, Samuel L Jackson, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Toni Collette
Director: DJ Caruso

"Save the world, kill the bad guys, get the girl and look dope doing it."

This is the mantra espoused to muscle man Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) at the end of the latest spy-jinks chapter of the xXx series after numerous sequences of action, shooting, and explosions.

And perhaps it's appropriate too, but really in this latest adrenaline-filled rote outing, do they all have to look quite so bored doing it?

Given the cartoony nature of the xXx film franchise (it's honestly closer in tone to ACME meets James Bond than anything serious), perhaps the film shouldn't be taken too seriously, but given the fact it aims for ludicrous and tries to be as serious as possible, it has to be judged on those terms.

After going off the grid, Xander Cage is brought back into the fold by pouty ice-queen, the bleached blonde NSA big-wig Jane Marke (a wasted Toni Collette, who frankly looks bored at times) after a terrorist group reveals it has the power to bring down any of the 30,000 satellites currently in orbit onto any target with fatal consequences - via a piece of kit called "Pandora's Box."

And when a group steals the McGuffin to do so, Cage recruits his own trusted team (including Game Of Thrones' The Hound aka Rory McCann) to try and save the day.

It seems pointless to rail against the terribly by the numbers xXx: Return of Xander Cage because its knowing tone and continual plot holes all form to make an experience that will leave any rational brain dribbling at the door. You could also rail at the laughably offensive stereotype of a computer genius (embodied by a nattering glasses-wearing Nina Dobrev from The Vampire Diaries) within as this aimed-at-15-year-old boys flick plays out.

But given it's assembled a cross cultural cast (potentially a cynical cash grab to include Indian and Chinese stars to attack multiple markets at the quieter time of the release year)  it genuinely does deserve applause for such diversity - and giving Donnie Yen as much screen time as Diesel is a commendable touch from this otherwise lunatic and frankly absurd and occasionally dumb as a bag of spanners actioner.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage delivers only formulaic action sequences for the most part - though a freeway underpass fight and Donnie Yen's fists of fury on a plane sequence more than deliver enough to make up for it. It's a shame because the movie starts out with its tongue so far in its cheek thanks to onscreen subtitles and nods and winks (one potential xXx recruits profile proclaims he thought he was being recruited for the Avengers) that it almost seems worthwhile.

But it's then stymied by the fact the writers don't seem to care for their characters or the predicament, so consequently why should you? As a result, the mid-section feels bloated and saddled with two fresher and edgier book-ends, the tone of which would have been better to follow.

At the end of the day, xXx: Return of Xander Cage is a piece of mindless popcorn entertainment, that somehow manages to miss much of the low-hanging fruit it could aim for. If it had embraced more of the lunatic element into its own DNA, rather than plenty of Vin Diesel posturing and mumbling in between action scraps, it could have been a breath of fresh cinematic air.

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