xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Jake Richardson | 27/01/2017

Vin Diesel returns to the middling franchise with an instalment that blows away any sort of plot and removes any lingering worth to the spy saga.

D.J. Caruso helms the newest adventure for Xander Cage (Vin Diesel). When Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) is killed by a terrorist who has acquired a device that can bring down satellites like missiles on any given location, Xander Cage is brought out of obscurity by Jane Marke (Toni Collette) to hunt down the weapon and return it to “safe” hands. To do so, he teams up with old friends, shady characters, and sometimes enemies.

 

xXx is well known as a series that replaced it’s initial lead (Vin Diesel) after the first film with Ice Cube. This time around they bring back Diesel, never really explaining how his character, who was supposedly dead in the first film, survived. This maps out a trend for exposition in the film; in that there isn’t any. The plot, if one takes the vast liberty to call it such, is so threadbare as to be barely visible. The antagonist barely makes an impression, and the device he wields should be pictured in the dictionary next to the word ‘MacGuffin’.

 

The story is filled with potentially one of the most diverse casts seen on screen; certainly in a big blockbuster action film like this. Joining Vin Diesel are Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, and Tony Jaa as a shady spy team Xander is originally tasked to track down. To find them, he enlists the help of a team of his choosing (after ejecting his assigned army team from the back of a plane), made up by Ruby Rose as a sniper, Nina Dobrev as a tech guru, Rory McCann as a driver, and Kris Wu, whose only skill, seemingly, is as a DJ.

Needless to say, almost none of the cast come out of this ungodly mess unscathed. Padukone and Yen make a fair go of it, with Yen making a strong case for his own action-blockbuster, but the remainder deliver some truly awful dialogue as they inhabit poorly written characters who seem to switch personalities with every scene. Indeed, Xander Cage provides some of the worst represented female characters of the year, while also providing some of the best. Padukone and Rose play strong female characters, as does Collette, but they are overshadowed by Dobrev’s character’s seemingly unhinged desire for Xander (or, for that matter, any other female character who comes into contact with the somehow irresistible Xander Cage).

 

At the end of the day, the movie most likely attracts for it’s action, which is effective enough. With three big action set pieces, including a zero-g fight in a plane, motorbikes surfing across an ocean, Xander skiing down a Cliffside, and innumerable gun battles punctuated with Diesel’s gruff growl, it certainly delivers action. But much like the film itself, all of these fight scenes are big, loud and unsubtle, and suffer for it.

 

D.J. Caruso aims for unrestrained, explosive fun, but with a script that is barely comprehensible, coupled with zero plot and a bevy of characters who make the action seem more appropriate for the small screen than the silver screen, he misses by a country mile.

Conclusion

Like watching a Vin Diesel fever-dream, xXx: Return of Xander Cage gives us a unique insight into what Vin Diesel thinks people view him as, in a film that will have you feeling an overwhelming sense of relief when it finally finishes.