Review: “XxX: Return of Xander Cage”

Review: “XxX: Return of Xander Cage”

When I go to a movie with Vin Diesel, I expect a couple things. I expect action, lots of it, and I expect humor. Even though it has been more than ten years since Vin Diesel played the role of Xander Cage, I was not disappointed. Vin Diesel was at his best and this was a roller coaster ride of stunts and fight scenes.

In the original movie, Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is an extreme sports athlete recruited by the government for a secret mission by Agent Augustus Gibbons. In the sequel, he is supposedly dead.  In “XxX: Return of Xander Cage”, the movie begins with a satellite crashing to earth and Agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) being killed. The NSA, headed by Jane Marke (Toni Collette) has traced the cause of the crash to a device called Pandora’s Box that can control the satellites and hack into any system. They have retrieved the box but are infiltrated by a group, led by a man called Chang (Donny Yen) who steals it from them. Marke locates Xander Cage, hiding out in a remote location. She convinces him to help her get the device back to honor the memory of Agent Gibbons.

Xander agrees, tracing the group with the help of a hacker but refuses to work with Marke’s team of military soldiers. He puts together his own team, sharpshooter Adele Wolff (Ruby Rose), party boy Nicks (Kris Wu), and lunatic Tennyson Torch (Rory McCann). They are equipped and assisted by Becky Clearidge (Nina Dobrev).  They head off to the Phillipines where Xander tangles with Chang and his crew, fierce Serena Unger (Deepika Padukone), crazy Talon (Tony Jaa), and bruiser Hawk (Michael Bisping). After their altercation, alliances shift and Xander must find a way to stop everyone from using the Pandora Box.

This is an incredible fast paced movie and a talented group of performers. There is a wide diversity among the actors.  Donny Yen and Tony Jaa are skilled martial artists, Vin Diesel is always good in an action movie Ruby Rose and Deepika Padukone were kick ass and as strong as the male characters. Toni Collette was tough as nails and believable as the head of the NSA.  Nina Dobrev made being a nerd look smart and was funny. Every character had a reason for being there and I liked how they handled their parts.

The action sequences were well executed. One of the things I liked was that a great deal of the tricks used in the movie are able to be performed by people who are trained. Most of the scenes were realistic and believable. A few stretched the boundaries of what was possible but both myself and my husband had no trouble suspending disbelief. One of my favorite scenes is when both Xander and Chang are figuring out the trajectories inside a stairwell by doing math in their heads, making sure which directions bullets would fly to keep out of the way and take out their opponents. It was sexy seeing math used in a movie by intelligent characters to create the action in the scene. My husband loved the motorcycles on skis, flying across the ocean. Stunts like these carried the movie and made it exciting.

The acting was decent. All of the characters were sympathetic, even the bad guys and the motivations of each character was clear. We knew why each character was there and what they wanted, even if it was a simple reason. I especially enjoyed that the character of Serena Unger wants to destroy the Pandora Box rather than let the wrong people get their hands on it and in her opinion, everyone is the wrong guy. The writers allowed her to be a strong character and ultimately, she was a great foil to Vin Diesel.

The movie was predictable, there were no real surprises but it made up for that by not taking itself too seriously. There were some great lines and some nudges toward Samuel L. Jackson’s role as Nick Fury in the Avengers movies. Nina Duprev’s character Becky has some corny lines, like ‘my safe word is Kumquat’ when she is flirting with Xander. Tennyson stops to take a selfie after his 200th crash. All of these bits made the audience laugh and I could totally see this as a tongue in cheek version of the James Bond movies with Xander as a rebel gangster version of the famous spy.

One of the problems I did see in the film was an underutilization of several of the top billed cast. Both Donny Yen and Tony Jaa are incredible martial artists and we only saw a small portion of what they could do. It was a shame to have them in the movie and not have them get to do more. Donny Yen did far more in Rogue One, for example, and neither of the two men got to pull of anything near what they are both capable of doing.

There were also some continuity issues. Toward the end of the film, two men are shot. They are both shown unable to fully move but minutes later are able to walk just fine. This kind of error bothers me because it disrupts the flow of the movie and just leaves me dissatisfied with the director for not catching these errors.

Despite these issues and the predictable plot, the action and characters did keep me entertained. The film managed to tie together elements from the previous two films and Vin Diesel was incredible in his action scenes. If you like him and you like any of his movies, you’ll love this film. It has likeable characters you can root for, lots of humor, and great action sequences. It was a thrilling movie.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Updated: December 1, 2017 — 10:52 AM

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.