The Amity Affliction
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[FILM REVIEW] XXX: Return Of Xander Cage

Both xXx and The Fast & the Furious have a lot in common. They were both directed by Rob Cohen, they were both aimed at the same audience, both starred Vin Diesel, and in both cases Vin Diesel did not return for the direct sequel. The big difference I think is that the makers of The Fast & Furious franchise kept at it until they struck gold. Nobody would’ve expected after 2 Fast 2 Furious that not only would there be 6 more sequels (and counting) but that the 7th instalment alone would crack a billion dollars worldwide at the box office. With the hotly anticipated 8th F&F movie releasing soon it seems that 15 years after the original xXx movie was released, they’re giving it another go.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is the third instalment in the long on hold XXX franchise since the box office failure of XXX 2: State of the Union aka: XXX 2: The Next Level. Long believed dead (because they killed his character off out of bitterness when he wouldn’t return for the original sequel) extreme athlete thrill seeker Xander Cage returns to active duty as a government operative to stop an unstoppable weapon dubbed “Pandoras Box” with the ability to drop any of the hundreds of satellites out of orbit on the earth below. To take on a team of terrorists he recruits his own team of undesirables to get the job done.

I was a HUGE fan of the original XXX film when it came out in 2002. I was already a fan of James Bond, and I appreciated that xXx was James Bond with a twist. A few months later the James Bond franchise as it stood was ruined by the shoddy Die Another Day & a few years later xXx was ruined by its own shoddy sequel itself too directed by Lee Tamahori. Regardless of it being a silly action film, the original xXx was a hit even though at the time it was seen as an extremely stupid film by many critics. xXx: The Return of Xander Cage shows just how far the bar for silly action movies has fallen.

Right off the bat, it’s clear the makers of xXx 3 appear to The filmmakers totally don’t get the appeal of the original film and the characters specifically Xander Cage. It’s made clear in the opening scene where Gibbons (Samuel l Jackson) is recruiting a new xXx agent, some real life footballer who’s revealed like he’s David Beckham. Now Gibbons in the original film was pretty much Jackson’s Nick Fury character 6 years before Iron Man, here though his performance is even more comedic than it was in Kingsman or Hateful 8. Either he contractually COULDNT play the character too close to Fury or more likely he just forgot how he played the character 10-15 years ago and nobody bothered to tell him.

Much worse is Xander Cage. The appeal to me of his character in the first movie was that while he was a thrill seeking adrenaline junkie he still came off like a real person who didn’t quite know what he was doing. He was “extreme” but he wasn’t bulletproof, this is how they maintained some drama because even though WE know deep down our action hero is not going to die it’s just boring if it seems like they realise it too.

The problem with Xander here (and almost every other character) is the filmmakers try way too hard to make him “cool” in this movie to the point he seems more like a parody rather than an actual character. He KNOWS he’s bulletproof; he recites quotes and jokes from the original movie as if these are his catchphrases, but really it just makes it seem like this character has been making the same jokes for 15 years. It must also be said that Vin Diesel is just too old to be playing “extreme sports” fanatic without it being brought up in the plot. He was in his mid 30’s last time but looked good, he’s pushing 50 now and looks it. As crazy as the Fast & Furious movies get, and they do get pretty crazy, they’ve dealt with this craziness and the actors ageing a lot better than it has been here.

The movie is filled with new characters, and there are simply too many in this movie for any of them to be given proper development. For what it’s worth Donnie Yen’s character (whatever his name was) is probably the only one who comes out alright with what little screentime he’s given and even an important part of that is ruined by having Ruby Rose’s lesbian sniper talking over it. Deepika Pedukone looks out of place, as does Toni Colette, Tony Jaa is completely wasted and everyone really just feels put there just to appeal to specific demographic. The script can’t even get the title character right let alone handle an ensemble.

The story itself is non-existent. The plot never seems to get started as no clear villain or scheme is established without it being shaken up 10 minutes later. Things just happen until it’s time to finish up like the film was written by the aimless thoughts of a 7-year-old writing a story for class until he runs out of space at the bottom of the page.

The movie would at least be salvageable if the action scenes were impressive. No such luck. The action is filmed and edited in such a schizophrenic way always with the multiple characters in multiple locations that it’s impossible at times to know who you’re looking at or what’s happening let alone caring about any of it.

The movie lacks EVERYTHING that makes the first one enjoyable. Arc, characters, action all of it is awful. To top it off with Vin Diesel’s age and the bad script the movie doesn’t even feature “Xander Cage” as fans knew and loved him.

Honestly, the only plus I can attribute to this movie is that with Donnie Yen being in this & Rogue One within 2 months of each other he might finally get some more mainstream love in Hollywood. The sad irony is that Tony Jaa is wasted here in the same way that Donnie Yen was throughout the early 2000’s

1/2 out of 5
kylemcgrath
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Kyle McGrath is a life-long film and television fan who has an encyclopedic knowledge of films. Kyle loves all kinds of films but is an expert when it comes to cult cinema and action films. He has also worked as a video game reviewer.

Over the years Kyle has had a number of roles in the media world from a production assistant at Melbourne Channel 31 television station and an executive producer on the popular X-Wired television show. Currently, he works not only as a film reviewer for Subculture Entertainment and Heavy Mag but also for The Popcorn Experience podcast.
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