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Review - 'xXx: The Return of Xander Cage'

Review - 'xXx: The Return of Xander Cage'

From the opening credits to the final scene, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is as bombastic as it is ambitious, offering fun action sequences and rambunctious characters. Unfortunately, the movie isn’t relentless in its action or dumb dialogue as you’d expect from a movie about extreme sports athletes turned secret agents. Instead, the film meanders from awkward scene to awkward scene, removing what fun there is and seems more like an ego trip for Vin Diesel than a fun early 2017 romp.

After a satellite crash lands in Brazil and the culprits responsible lay siege to CIA headquarters, Xander Cage is recruited once again to fight agents that move and fight to an EXTREME! Joined by newcomers to the series such as Ruby Rose as Adele Wollf and Deepika Padukone as Serena Unger, Xander Cage must procure a device that is capable of turning satellites into warheads and save the world while looking dope while he does it.

Donnie Yen. That’s it, you can stop reading this half-assed review because he’s the main reason to watch xXx. Playing more of an anti-hero than villain for the majority of the film, Donnie Yen is just a treasure to watch from his fight choreography to his offbeat character performance. Instead of playing backseat to everyone else in the film like Rogue One, he’s at the forefront with Vin Diesel towards the later half and becomes the most likable character on screen. When he’s fighting, he adds a level of humor unseen when compared to the humorless robot that is Vin Diesel’s Xander Cage. Come to think of it, Vin Diesel is probably one of the worst parts of the film.

Yes, Xander Cage’s apt Batman detective skills are intact from the original, but Xander has absolutely no charisma and no arc as what starts off to be an intriguing concept for the character when he’s running out of places to hide in the world with no anchor is quickly overshadowed and completely forgotten. The worst part is that Xander Cage is treated like nothing more than object for most of the film. Every time he’s on screen with a woman, they’re all over him. Hell, there’s even a point where Xander Cage meets a high profile contact in London and there’s the possibility of her body as a reward but instead of sleeping with him, she has five or six of her underlings sleep with him as payment for information. What? Seriously, what? It becomes even more egregious when Nina Dobrev’s character is first introduced and all she can do is point out how big Xander Cage’s muscles are and how hot he is to the extent that she tells him her safeword. Again, what? I thought I was watching an action film, not the start to a really bad porn. What’s worse is that this scene goes on for entirely too long where I felt uncomfortable in the theater; it’s just that bad.

The rest of the cast is stellar though. Ruby Rose, Deepika Padukone, and Rory McCann are a blast to watch and their characters, whose abilities are albeit rather pointless aside from Ruby’s, have the best action scene towards the end when they’re fighting wave after wave of enemies, guns blazing. Tony Jaa on the the other hand is completely underutilized, which is a shame.

The effects and set pieces are great ideas on paper but there were some I thought should have been better executed. Aside from the awesome hand-to-hand combat sequences however, there’s a great highway chase sequence that’s as brutal as it is fun. When I say brutal, I mean the characters are getting hit by cars left and right, but instead of wincing in pain, they laugh it off like it’s fun. And that’s what I wish I had more from this film, more fun.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage is just as dumb as you’d think it would be, but nowhere near as fun as it should be. Instead of filling scenes with character development or unique action sequences, more time is spent idolizing Xander Cage, resulting in a dull and predictable action film where everyone in the film is more fun to watch than the titular character.

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