xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)
xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 47 min.

Release Date: January 20th, 2017 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: D.J. Caruso Actors: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Toni Collette, Samuel L. Jackson, Hermione Corfield, Michael Bisping, Al Sapienza, Tony Gonzalez

 


 

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he opening title graphics are vibrant, neon red, three-dimensional letters, augmented by CG satellite parts and space debris, overshadowed by thunderous, bassy music. There’s so much build with this design, yet the payoff is essentially just an enormously hyped-up, overwrought punchline. Somewhere in the credits is also the fact that star Vin Diesel produced this picture, which means that he surely had plenty of control over how much undue positive attention and extravagant heroism would be heaped onto his character.

Government operative Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), as enthusiastic as ever, is attempting to lure a new member into his revered “XXX” program when a satellite is sent hurtling down onto the building in which he eats his breakfast. At the CIA Headquarters in New York, Jane Marke (Toni Collette) informs a collection of intelligence bureaucrats that a device called Pandora’s Box – which has the ability to hijack any satellite, eavesdrop on any communication, and corrupt military information – was to blame for the recently downed orbital equipment. In a flash, three highly skilled terrorists (Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, and Michael Bisping) break into the office and steal said device, but not before taking out a legion of armed guards without so much as breaking a sweat (during their getaway, they’re further aided by Tony Jaa, doing motorcycle stunts that break every law of physics).

This leads to a globetrotting adventure, wherein the one and only Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), the original XXX program enlistee, is summoned to track down and recapture Pandora’s Box. But it’ll be a tough job, considering that the trio who stole it were all dressed in black leather and knew how to strike formidable poses before and after tossing security people around like sacks of flour. Fortunately, Xander is also well versed in the art of ludicrous choreography, as he’s introduced skiing through a forest in Santo Domingo, skateboarding down a winding road and across the side of a bus, liberating an impoverished community of their dire state of televisionlessness, speaking encouraging words to a small child, and finally bedding his local supermodel acquaintance.

The stunts are immediately nonsensical, orchestrated to be so wildly over-the-top that there’s absolutely no semblance of realism. This is sad, considering that the more unbelievable the action is, the less potent the suspense becomes. Without a feeling of genuine peril, none of the feats have any meaning. It’s like watching a cartoon in which harebrained schemes always end in inescapable destruction, but then merely segue to another episode involving all the same players restored to full health. The stunts are incredibly phony, so it’s fitting that the next scene finds Cage uncovering a fake setup for a test of his proficiency – a clumsy gimmick previously used in the 2002 film.

Cage’s first order of business is to travel to London to retrieve his fur coat (from Hermione Corfield) and to have sex with five or so women simultaneously, while also discovering that the terrorists are holed up in the Philippines. He then ditches the CIA’s top soldiers for a handpicked team of conspicuously diverse, trustworthy accomplices, including a sniper (Ruby Rose), a car-crash maniac (Rory McCann), and a disc jockey (Kris Wu). One might think that choosing a DJ for an infiltration and assassination mission in hostile territory amidst gun-toting killers would be an unwise strategy, but, ironically, he turns out to be quite useful, as the group ends up sneaking into a loud party, dancing to a pulsing beat, and taking control of a distracting turntable. Since the majority of the movie resembles a long, stylized music video, the DJ just might be the most important recruit of them all.

It’s here, during the ensuing, headache-inducing commotion and escape that the film defines its silly extremeness and intentions of showcasing action sequences far above telling a story or making sense. Cage disappears for a split second to saddle a motorcycle, which he then drives through and across various obstacles, before pressing a button that flips open skis under the wheels so that he can surf some waves. This maddeningly absurd concept tops all the others, to the point that even the high-octane finale (which goes on for quite some time but contains a brief bit of amusement) can’t redeem such colossal stupidness.

– Mike Massie

  • 1/10