“xXx: The Return of Xander Cage” | Movie Review


xxx-poster-whyGrade (D+)

Another sequel that comes out many years later, only to fail in bringing the enjoyment captured in the first.


There are tons of over-the-top action movies. Some of them fail, but some of them can deliver the absurdity with a charm and charisma, that make them enjoyable despite the ridiculousness. The recent “Fast and Furious” films are a great example of the genre done with charm, that make them fun to watch. Even films like “Crank” that take things to an even further level, mange to show some ambition in their craziness, and can still be entertaining as they are.

“xXx: The Return of Xander Cage” was unfortunately one that felt like a shovel to the face. This sequel brings back, Vin Diesel, and Samuel L. Jackson and adds; Toni Collette, Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Ruby Rose, Deepika Padukone, Nina Dobrev and it’s directed by D.J. Caruso.

The story in this one follows Xander Cage who has been on a hiatus, with many thinking he was dead. He of course must come back to the ‘xXx Program’ to stop a group of bad guys who have this weapon called Pandora’s Box. An item that can control all the satellites with the push of a button, or something that that. This entire script was just a jumble of convolution.

Now I was hoping this movie would be entertaining. I knew it would be over-the-top, and oozing absurdity. But there was still hope it would be dumb fun. However it was just dumb, without the fun. It was recycled, messy, lazy at times, and in the end a mind-numbing hour and forty-five minutes.

xander-10

© Paramount Pictures

First let’s start with the good. Donnie Yen, and Ruby Rose. That’s pretty much it. They both make the most of their roles and they really fit the parts they are playing. They also pull the characters off with as much energy as they can given the material they had to work with.

There were a couple good action scenes tossed in here and there. Meaning literally one here and one there. The rest of the action was not very well shot, it was over-edited, and shot extremely too close-up, to simply mask whatever inadequacies there may have been.  But other than like maybe two scenes, the rest of the action was a mess like we saw in film’s such as; “Taken 3” or “Hitman: Agent 47”. Just wave after wave of over-stylized scenes, that were given the music video editing treatment.

This was unfortunate because the practical stunt-work that made the first film so entertaining were all but replaced with the green screens and computers. The motorcycles on the water scene was as ridiculous as it looked in the trailer. Yet, despite the years of technical advancements, there was not much difference between this scene, and the infamous Kurt Russell surfing scene in “Escape from L.A.” in my opinion. I mean sure the effects were better, but the dumbness was much the same.

Since were on this topic of other films that come to mind throughout this story. Let cover the films this one copied, in short order. This film copies the Mel Gibson, Rene Russo sharing scars and old battle stories from “Lethal Weapon” only swaps it out them out with tattoos. Because of course you are not cool these days if you don’t have any ink. It also copies the Jamie Lee Curtis, let me drop my gun and kill everybody scene from “True Lies”. We get the two-gun table slide while shooting from “The Other Guys”, we get the arms out the sides, double pistol slow-mo shot from “Hitman” and we can go on an on.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

© Paramount Pictures

As for the story, it was honestly hot garbage. Good guys and bad guys flip-flop from one scene to the next simply to allow for some fight sequences. It’s highly predictable and filled with some flat-out horrendously bad dialogue. Lines that delivers endless waves of forced humor, innuendo, flat one-liners, and recycled action-movie babble, from start-to-finish.

Diesel had his moments but not many of them, as he felt as flat as the jokes he was trying to tell. If you are going to deliver lines like this film pushes on the audience, you have to sell them, he just did not. And was not at all funny in this film, like it was desperately trying to make him.

Also, if you are interested in this movie for the action of Donnie Yen or Tony Jaa, you will be disappointed. Jaa was reduced to a virtual circus clown, and Yen did make this movie MUCH better. But even he was used to not even 10% of his potential. I mean he clearly makes the most of his dialogue, and was a fun addition, but his action skills were all but wasted.

I can imagine how the film-making process worked in this movie. During the fight choreography, Yen and Jaa probably both gave their input. Like, ‘we can come dropping in with a barrage of punches, then spin here and leap off the wall with a double kick, and land into a back-roll under the table, then spring up with a finisher.’

The filmmakers are like, ‘hmm, that sounds really cool. BUT, you know… Hmm, I think we come in with you, just running in to frame with some punches and maybe like one kick. Can we get you to do that kick you did in “Kung-Fu Killer” that was bad-ass. And don’t even worry about the rest, were just going to place fourteen neat little cuts in, and swing the camera in REAL close. It’ll be great, it’s going to look like a total mess and people will love it.’

I will remind you, I was not expecting high level film-making here. But I was expecting a fun story, some cheap but amusing one-liners, and everything you get with wildly ridiculous action movies like these. But all this one turned out to be was a sequel that tried way too hard to look stylish and trendy. It forced the effort on being cool so hard it felt like those college guys that still go to high-school parties. This was a movie that wasted its potential with all the ambition put into being stylish, and not giving the story, or the direction of the film, its own charm.


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