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Movie Review: ‘xXx: Return Of Xander Cage’
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eelyajekiM   |  @   |  
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xXx Return of Xander Cage review

xXx: Return of Xander Cage
Director: D. J. Caruso
Screenwriter: F. Scott Frazier
Cast: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Toni Collette, Samuel L. Jackson
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Rated PG-13 | 115 Minutes
Release Date: January 20, 2017

It never ceases to amaze me how much passion Vin Diesel has in seemingly dead in the water projects. Fast and Furious and Riddick were two Diesel franchise vehicles that never really got off the ground when they launched, but because of his dedication to the fans, they got sequels. The former much more popular than the latter, but the actor took it upon himself to breathe new life into the xXx films with xXx: Return of Xander Cage.

Never let it be said that Diesel doesn’t know how to have fun, because in xXx: Return of Xander Cage, there is plenty of it. There’s no political message, no over-sexualization of either gender, and no xenophobic thoughts. Instead, the film treats us to something everyone can enjoy. My full review below.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage centers on the theft of a technological device called Pandora’s Box, which gives those in possession of it the ability to gain control of any orbiting satellite and use it as they please. With it they can hack communications or use said satellite as a weapon to drop down on targets. Those who stole the device are all thrill-seekers — Xiang (Donnie Yen), Serena Unger (Deepika Padukone), Talon (Tony Jaa), and Hawk (Michael Bisping) — who dare to look death in the face and smile. In fact, the weapon has been used against the one person who recruits these thrill-seekers, NSA Agent Augustus Eugene Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson).

Now the new head of xXx (Toni Collette) is forced to bring Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) from out of hiding, and he recruits Adele (Ruby Rose), an expert sniper; Zhou (Kris Wu) master DJ, who can drop a sick beat; and Tennyson (Rory McCann), a wheelman with a habit of crashing cars, to be on his team to stop the thieves from using Pandora’s Box for nefarious purposes.

For a franchise that never had that much of a dedicated fanbase to begin with, this new installment, xXx: Return of Xander Cage, feels a lot like a reboot — a much-needed reboot actually. The new film has no problem acknowledging the utter absurdity of extreme sports athletes being heroes. We have Donnie Yen leaping from a tall building to an adjacent shorter one with ease, then we have Diesel jump from the top of a radio tower only to ski down through the jungles of Puerto Rico before snatching a skateboard to grind the streets to give locals access to their beloved sport of futbol. A child thanks him for giving him access to see the world, to which Cage replies that the world is big and that it fits in the child’s heart.

From those two opening stunts, we see Diesel, Padukone, and Yen involved in something that resembles explosive hot potato. After that, Diesel rides extreme waves on a motorbike. Sure, it doesn’t make any sense, but it does look pretty epic on screen. It’s best not to try to figure out the logic of this film, because there isn’t any. But one thing that you can count on is finding plenty of likable characters.

As cool as the action sequences look – again, none of it makes sense but hell, I had fun watching it – it wouldn’t be as epic without such a stellar cast. In fact, the cast is a celebration of global stars that sees no gender. Adele, Serena, and Becky (Nina Dobrev) are empowered independent women who are skilled in their own special way, so much so that it puts some of their male counterparts to shame.

Sure, there are some sexual innuendos from the title character, the film has as much body shots of Diesel as Rose and Padukone.

Where most films would take a jingoist approach by pegging the international stars as some sort of dangerous terrorist, xXx: Return of Xander Cage gives us a very reason to root for the antagonists. That’s because Xiang and his crew are never really painted as the villains with plans of world domination or assassinating political leaders. In fact, we don’t know much about their motivations. All we know is that they want Pandora’s Box, and they will use every extreme move in the book to get it. And really, who cares why they want it, this film is all about the action and stunts, all of which look very cool.

As absurd as everything that goes on in it, the xXx: Return of Xander Cage is willing to acknowledge just how stupid everything is by pushing the envelope in both action and stunts, and sprinkling it with a few funny (although not too memorable) one-liners.

Follow me on Twitter: @eelyajekim

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