xXx: Return of Xander Cage Review

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There is something gloriously absurd about xXx: Return of Xander Cage, the third entry into a franchise which first graced our screens 15 years ago. With D.J. Caruso now at the helm, it would appear the filmmaker is aware of the irreverence that illuminates the preceding endeavours, for he’s taken that artistic licence as far as it can go, transpiring in a film that is completely ridiculous, with an unwavering commitment to entertainment. To be as awful as this film is on occasion would seem irredeemable, unless the director is aware of how bad the product is and plays up to it accordingly. I think he knows. He must.

Vin Diesel, who sat out the last production in the series, with the lead role going to Ice Cube, is now revisiting the role of Xander Cage, in exile, despite knowing that eventually he’ll be found by Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) in a bid to have him rejoin the xXx programme. Needless to say he’s rather surprised when instead it’s Jane Marke (Toni Collette) who uncovers his whereabouts, and she has a mission of her own – to track down and put an end to a group of criminals who stole a weapon called ‘Pandora’s Box’ – which, if triggered, can control satellites and cause great damage to the planet. Begrudging at first, Xander Cage, complete with a collective of old friends he can rely on, take on the endeavour, stopping at nothing to help save the day… Again.

To compliment the cliched, hackneyed screenplay that bears so many cheesy one-liners it gives this film the feeling of a parody, like a spoof of the genre it’s within – the action is engaging at times, and much of that is down to Donnie Yen. The martial arts star has the best scenes in the feature, conflict without weapons, well-choreographed and exciting to indulge in. The actor’s inclusion is emblematic of a film vying to be accessible worldwide, with a distinctly international cast, with several talented individuals ranging from Deepika Padukone, Nina Dobrev, Tony Jaar and Ruby Rose on board, which should see this film do well in several territories it’s released in.

But for the audience, it’s not box office figures that makes a trip to the cinema a triumphant one, and while entertaining, to call this action thriller flawed would be something of an understatement. There are laughs to be had, certainly – but mostly at the film’s expense (and often at Vin Diesel’s massive furry coat which just looks ridiculous on him). But hey, it’s hard not to admire a film which opens with a scene featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Neymar eating lunch together, and then continues to get weirder from thereon.

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