XXX: Return of Xander Cage Review – Decent if you’re in on the joke

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xXx: The Return of Xander Cage At The IMAX
Director:
Age Restriction:
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Running Time: 110 mins

Verdict: 2.5 / 5

Beefcake Vin Diesel returns as Xander Cage, the extreme sportsman turned top-secret government agent with a glistening bald head, in this over-the-top sequel to the early 2000s action-packed blockbuster. XXX: Return of Xander Cage bulks up on cheap thrills and a paper-thin plot to deliver on all its promises: brainless entertainment, loud action sequences and beautiful people. And really, what more could you want from a Vin Diesel flick?

XXX: Return of Xander Cage Review

With each new film, it becomes harder to tell Vin Diesel’s on-screen characters apart. Much like Fast and The Furious‘ Dom, Xander Cage lives on the wild side and only communicates in cheesy one-liners. In fact, an argument could be made that Vin Diesel is really just playing himself in different settings. In Fast and The Furious, he plays an outlaw who loves cars and money. In Riddick, he basically plays that same character in space. And in XXX, he plays that same character again, except this time he trades the cars for extreme sports. Either way, this strategy or type-casting (call it what you like) seems to be working for him. And why shouldn’t it? His films are dedicated to a specific crowd – the type that aren’t interested in a kind of story or any substance beyond high-powered stunts and explosions.

The fifty-year-old Vin Diesel is clearly aware of the type of films that he is making. There’s a running joke throughout XXX: Return of Xander Cage and Diesel is enjoying every moment of it. How else would you explain some of the ridiculous things that happen in this movie? They’re not even trying to hide the absurdity. After a high-speed chase, behind Diesel’s smirk, we can tell that he is consciously trying his best to keep a straight face.

XXX: Return of Xander Cage Review

The film’s opening perfectly sets up every preposterous storyline to come. We find Samuel L. Jackson’s Augustus Gibbons (Nick Fury with a face scar) in a Chinese restaurant talking to an off-screen character who he hopes to recruit as a XXX agent. That character is soccer legend Neymar, who plays himself in the film. When Neymar rejects his offer, Gibbons turns to leave and suddenly a man enters the store with a shotgun in hand. Before you can say ‘Miss Smith’s fish-sauce shop seldom sells shellfish’, the soccer legend picks up a random metal object and kicks it like a soccer ball to take down the thug. Gibbons responds by yelling “goal” and is then obliterated by a crashing satellite from space. It’s the perfect forewarning of what’s to come.

The story follows the extreme-athlete-turned-government-operative Xander Cage as he makes his way out of hiding. Xander is tasked by the CIA (or whoever these suits are) to retrieve an unstoppable weapon called Pandora’s Box which was stolen by a group of baddies with similar skill sets. Of course, Xander puts together his own team of misfits and goes after the stolen item.

My biggest gripe with XXX: Return of Xander Cage, however, isn’t the senseless action or the thin storyline or the ridiculously good-looking people. It’s the way woman are presented in the film. Feminists are going to have a field day with this one. Every woman is presented as either a sexual object or a tough know-it-all. Usually, I am able to look past this, but it’s very evident in XXX. Often the scenes feel more like hip-hop music videos than an actual film. Perhaps that’s the best way to explain the film: a music video pieced together with great action sequences in between.

In conclusion, if all you need from a movie is 107 brainless minutes of noisy fun, then XXX: Return of Xander Cage is enough to keep you entertained until Fast 8.

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