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Review: xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

Director: D.J. Caruso | 107 minutes | action, adventure, thriller | Actors: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Toni Collette, Samuel L. Jackson, Ice Cube, Hermione Corfield, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Bisping, Al Sapienza, Nigel Bennett, Terry Chen,

In 2002 there was seemingly a hunger for a hip, more modern James Bond. The movie “xXx” was made in response to the cool super spy. The action and image of suave woman-devourer remained, but the gadgets and chic cars were replaced by an ugly fur coat and a love for extreme sports. It should be the big new franchise for actor Vin Diesel, who has previously been successful in films such as “Pitch Black” and “The Fast and the Furious”. The first “xXx” did not really impress, but a sequel (without Vin Diesel) and fifteen years later Xander Cage finally decides to return. And just like fifteen years ago, no one is really over the moon about that.

Vin Diesel is thus titular character Xander Cage in “xXx: Return of Xander Cage”; full-time adrenaline junkie, part-time savior of the world. When rampant xXx agent Xiang (Donnie Yen) and a team of extremely fierce martial arts practitioners steal a super weapon, it’s time for Xander to clock in at his part-time job. It’s a razor-thin plot for a movie full of ridiculous stunts that are physically impossible. Now the antics in action films do not always have to look realistic, but this film does take a lot of liberties (think Indiana Jones who survives a nuclear explosion).

Of course there are other factors that contribute something to the plot, but these are so common and unexplored that they hardly have an impact. In order to take out the team of terrorists (consisting of and Deepika Padukone, among others), Xander decides to set up a similar team (consisting of and Rory McCann, among others). The characters are often identified only by their origin or specialty. Ruby Rose is good with snipers and Tony Jaa is a very hyperactive Thai fighter boss. But nothing is really relevant, they are just part of the action sequences that are supposed to make the movie what it is.

And even those are not always that good. They are certainly entertaining, and at times laughable, but they don’t really impress anywhere. This is partly due to the way the character Xander Cage is written. Nowhere does he show any fear or doubt about his situation and that makes it damn difficult to fear for the fate of a character who is constantly struggling to get out of impossibly difficult situations. But in the end, Xander doesn’t really care what happens, he’ll survive anyway. The biggest bright spot in these scenes is Donnie Yen, of whom it is now well known that he can show a lot of cool fighting skills.

Other than that, it’s all cliché to the level that it gets annoying. “XXx: Return of Xander Cage” even tries to be very cheeky about it and wants to appear charming by means of introduction cards that the characters have to explain in two seconds. References to better movies in the genre that do much better (“The Avengers”) and the breaking of the fourth wall are painfully present and make it seem like the makers here are trying too hard to make their movie hip.

“XXx: The Return of Xander Cage” is above all a very stupid movie, one where the viewer can laugh at how nonsensical the action is. It makes the print a very solid guilty pleasure, one where you can be entertained with a good pot of beer and a lot of good friends. As long as you put on “The Avengers” or “Ip Man” (also with Donnie Yen) afterwards, you also want to watch a good movie with your friends.

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