Saturday, January 21, 2017

Movie Review #556: "xXx: Return of Xander Cage" (2017)

Director: D.J. Caruso
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
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When Pandora's Box, a top secret device that can drop satellites out of the sky with the push of a button, is stolen, the NSA locates the once thought to be dead Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) to help retrieve it.

Does Xander Cage live his life a quarter mile at a time? Asking for a friend.

"xXx: Return of Xander Cage" is the long-oft third installment in the "xXx" series. It is directed by D.J. Caruso, who is known for films like "Disturbia" and "The Disappointments Room," which we absolutely hated last year. Vin Diesel returns to the franchise to reprise his role as the extreme sports-loving Xander Cage. The NSA has recently recovered an item called Pandora's Box, which has the capability of bringing down satellites from orbit (among other things). Just as it is about to be retrieved, an unknown, highly skilled group breaks into an NSA meeting room and steals it right from their hands. In this vigilante group are Xiang, played by Chinese action star Donnie Yen, Serena Unger, played by Indian actress/model Deepika Padukone, Talon, played by Thai martial arts film sensation Tony Jaa, and Hawk, played by UFC Middleweight Champion Michael "The Count" Bisping (author's note: YAY). The NSA, now with limited options, taps Xander Cage to find the group and the device before it is too late. Instead of using the military's own team of macho-men, Cage, of course, prefers to work in-house and puts together his own team of "xXx" operatives. His team is comprised of expert sniper Adele Wolff, played by Ruby Rose, skilled driver and professional "crasher" Tennyson Torch, played by Rory McCann, and Nicks "The Hood," a DJ whose skill is being a ton of fun, played by Kris Wu.

It has been 12 years since the release of the poorly received "xXx: State of the Union," so why this movie? Why now? Why resurrect something that was clearly D.O.A.? Our only explanation is, "why not?" The studio is clearly trying to build up a new franchise with Xander Cage back in the driver's seat because everybody knows franchises are Hollywood's best moneymakers in the business today. We have never been huge fans of the "xXx" series. Sure, we liked some of the ridiculous aspects and the cheesy nature of the original, but we vehemently disliked the direction the series was taken in the super generic sequel. The first time we saw the trailer for "xXx: Return of Xander Cage," BigJ said something to the effect of, "that looks so stupid." Me? I LOVED IT. It looked just cheesy enough to get me invested in what could possible make for a return to original form for the series. Luckily, I was right! This installment, in some ways, even improves upon the original idea set forth by Diesel and company in 2002. Of course, Vin Diesel is back, and nothing says cheesy action like Vin Diesel skiing off of the top of a radio tower in the Dominican Republic. Now, the writers and director have seemingly embraced the goofy, over-the-top aspects that made the original film such a guilty pleasure as there are now a bunch of new characters that are more like caricatures than real life people. This movie is stupid, and it knows it. It embraces the absurd nature of everything it does, even to the point of self-parody. This movie in no way, shape, or form takes itself seriously at any moment. The entire plot is basically about chasing a McGuffin so that the in-between can be filled with outrageous stunts and extravagant, extreme action sequences.

As idiotic as the plot is and as mediocre as the acting is, "xXx: Return of Xander Cage" is a damn fun film that managed to make us either smile or laugh almost the entire time. It's really like watching a live action cartoon, but with way more mumble-talking a la Vin Diesel. We had a good time watching this, and you may, too, as long as you turn off your brain first.


My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~5.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~42%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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