Monday, January 30, 2017

REVIEW: "xXx: The Return of Xander Cage" is dumb fun. But fun nonetheless

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage" Review
I really liked "xXx" when it came out in 2002. I was already a big fan, and I really enjoyed the idea of a spy movie deconstructing the James Bond model. There is that scene at the beginning of movie where the James Bond analogue is gunned down and they need a new breed of spy to catch the bad guys. So they recruit a tattooed criminal Xander Cage (Vin Diesel). The Bond films were a fun kind of ridiculous, "xXx" was mostly ridiculous. But there was a realistic grit to most of it that I found alluring. I couldn't wait for a sequel, "xXx: State of the Union." Except that sequel was ridiculous taken beyond the extreme. Any goodwill built up from the first film was completely lost.

Now, I am given "xXx: The Return of Xander Cage," which is a sequel where we found out Xander Cage never died. Its also a movie that blends the two styles of the previous movies together. While I feel "The Return of Xander Cage" is more "State of the Union" than its original predecessor, I still had a good time with it. Believe me, "The Return of Xander Cage" is crazy, goofball fun. Consider a scene where Xander Cage puts his hands behind his head and makes a hole with his fingers in order for his friend to fire a sniper bullet at a bad guy. Consider a scene where a motorcycle turns into an jetski. Consider a scene where a character pulls a "True Lies," drops a machine gun, and kills a bunch of bad guys. Consider a scene where a villain puts on robot gloves to fight Xander Cage. Yes, you read that right, robot gloves. But its fun along the way.

We find out that Xander Cage faked his death during "State of the Union" in order to put himself in exile. While chilling in the Dominican Republic, he is picked up by a CIA officer Marke (Toni Collette) who needs his help. The CIA were holding onto a device known as Pandora's Box, which can turn satellites into missiles and attack places of interest. The device was stolen from a mysterious outlaw named Xiang (Donnie Yen) and Xiang's team. Xander must find them and bring Pandora's Box back to safety. Xander puts together a team which includes Adele Wolffe (Ruby Rose), DJ Nicks (Kris Wu) and driver "The Torch" (Rory "The Hound" McCann). This being a spy movie, there are twists and turns all over the place. But I have to say, its all fairly straight-forward. You will probably see it all coming. But again, this is a fun spy movie. Its not like the "Mission: Impossible" movies or even the "Bourne" movies are very hard to follow.

The movie is filled with shear stupidity. I don't think there was ever an explanation for why one of the villains has metal gloves. While the appearance of Ice Cube late in the film is cool, its never explained how he knows what's going on or how he even got there. There are cheesy one-liners on top of cheesy one-liners. But through it all, director D.J. Caruso crafts something worthwhile and crazy. Its even a bit fascinating that Caruso is able to tie some real world events in the movie. Its nothing big or out-of-place. 

The target audience doesn't go to a movie like "xXx: The Return of Xander Cage" for real world parallels though, if anything, you go to something like this to get away from it all. You don't go to this movie for a thought-provoking, deep story. You go to a movie like this to be entertained. While it is a wacky movie, I believe you will leave feeling entertained. Vin Diesel is as good as he's ever been here, and I like how Xander Cage doesn't feel at all like Dominic Toretto. You can't go wrong with an action movie that features both Donnie Yen AND Tony Jaa, running around and kicking ass. Trust me, the Donnie Yen scenes, as expected, are worth the price of admission. I also think there are enough, beautiful women, big action, fast cars and cool anti-heroes to keep anybody's eyes glued to the screen.

The "xXx" franchise still hasn't revolutionized the spy genre, but it sure does help it kick some ass.

FINAL GRADE: B

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