xXx: The Return of Xander Cage Review

by Michael B. Hock

Silly terrorists. Bullets are useless against Vin Diesel.

Or rogue NSA agents. I’m still not entirely sure who was shooting at Vin Diesel for much of xXx: the Return of Xander Cage. It’s a movie very concerned with slow motion shots of dirt bikes transforming into jet skis, and not much else.

The “plot” so much it is introduced in between moments of half naked women dancing, unbelievable stunts, and fight scenes, involves a device that can make any satellite in the world crash, thus turning it into a type of missile. At first it ends up in the hands of Xiang (Donnie Yen) and Serena Unger (Deepika Padukone), who want it for reasons. Those reasons aren’t very clear, but it’s hard to care when they’re throwing grenades at each other for fun. CIA Agent Jane Marke (Toni Collette, probably having a lot more fun than anyone else on screen) decides to bring Xander Cage, the original xXx out of retirement to take them down, and get back the magic box that can do whatever it is that everyone says it can do.

Let’s be honest. Do you care much about the plot? Or do you want to see Vin Diesel and his stunt double ski down a giant antenna and then high five a guy in a car?

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is pretty much what you would expect from a movie like this, a plot laced expertly around all those things I mentioned. He jumps out of a plane. There are some cool Donnie Yen moments where he jump kicks a bunch of faceless bad guys while a plane is crashing. There are zany action movie quips. Really, what do you expect?

The movie really shines in some of the moments where they assemble the motley crew that’s going after the magic satellite controlling box. What’s really interesting is that rather than assembling the usual crew like a hacker or a wheel man, we get some interesting characters, like a DJ who’s described as “fun to be around” as one of his superpowers. (And he kind of is.) Ruby Rose excels as sharpshooter Adele Wolff, but most of her part pretty much requires her to just glower while playing with guns. But by assembling these people, who of course are the extreme of the extreme, and we know how extreme they are because not only Xander Cage told us they are, but because the stuff suits and army guys hate them that much, but because they’re interesting even in their short time on the screen.

I mean… really, I could go on. But the problem with trying to take a critical look at a movie like this is… what’s the point? This a movie that is built on explosions, skimpy outfits, outlandish stunts, and shutting off your brain for a few minutes while you enjoy all of those things. The question really relies on the point: does it do this well? I could easily argue that it does, and you really start to feel that around the moment when Vin Diesel is chasing Donnie Yen on a dirt bike through a jungle, and they both transform into jet skis so they can race on water and in slow motion through the waves.

It’s January. That means that we’re now getting all those movies that aren’t up for awards, and all those movies that didn’t quite make the cut to be shoved crammed into a weekend with a bunch of other movies. Which means, let’s face it, we’re going to have to be grading these on a curve. Is xXx: The Return of Xander Cage a classic action movie that you’ll treasure? Probably. Is it a fun way to distract yourself from… well, everything else that’s going on right now? Absolutely. Vin Diesel and his team have crafted a fun little distraction, full of action and cheesy quips that you’ll forget the second you’re out of the theater. But try not to enjoy the hell out of every second of it. You really can’t.

I highly recommend taking advantage of the fact that in a time when movies are becoming more self-serious, a movie like this exists.

Hamlet T. Wondercat says…

hamlet 4

Out of Five

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