xXx: The Return of Xander Cage Review

Sometimes, even with there being a lot of high quality films out, you just want to watch a good bit of junk, something that’s stupid but entertaining. There have been a good few films following that mould over the past few years such as White House Down, Hardcore Henry and Big Game. This year, the crown of best stupid action film has probably been taken immediately by the third film in the xXx series. Now, I haven’t seen any of the other films in the xXx series and wasn’t really interested in seeing this one, until I saw the trailer for it and saw that it starred Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa and the prospect of seeing an action film with those two in it peaked my interest. After watching the film, as you can probably guess, whilst I can’t call the film good by any stretch, it is incredibly entertaining and the kind of gloriously stupid film that I love to watch every now and again.The plot of the film concerns the theft of a device known as Pandora’s Box, which can be used to hijack satellites and turn them into missiles, after it is stolen from the headquarters of the CIA. Due to the skills of the thieves, the NSA recruits Xander Cage to find Pandora’s Box, with him enlisting his own team to help him find the device. However, there are other forces at play and questions over whether or not Cage and his team are on the right side. Now the plot is nothing special, it’s your bog standard spy film plot with twists that are easily predictable from the word go. What works though is the way the film is framed. Unlike other action films which would take a plot like this and do it seriously, this film has its tongue firmly in its cheek, knowing that the plot is overly convoluted and predictable and has fun with it. There are a lot of scenes which have a good sense of humour and it’s clear that the cast are having a lot of fun with the film and this tone works for the film. It even does some elements better than other films in this vein, notably doing the on-screen introductions for each of the characters (with a freeze frame, their skill and a funny fact about the character) better than Suicide Squad did. There are a few problematic elements in the plot though, mainly with the depiction of women in the first half of the film. Quite a few of the scenes are leery towards women, a fair few of the cast wearing very revealing outfits and one scene involving an orgy (which also seems to hint at some insecurity felt by Vin Diesel, although it does lead to some funny lines) which did throw me off a bit.

In terms of the performances, the film is a bit of a mixed bag. I’ve never been a big fan of Vin Diesel outside of his voiceover work in films like The Iron Giant and Guardians of the Galaxy. When he’s just using his voice, Diesel can covey a great deal of emotion, but when we see his whole body language, he just comes across as bored to me, and unfortunately that is true here as well. Diesel is one of the weaker parts of the film and any credit I can give to the character of Xander Cage being a badass goes more to the stunt team than to Diesel. I also have to say that Toni Collette gives a pretty bland performance overall, she gets a few good moments but overall her performance feels pretty phoned in. The rest of the cast though are a lot of fun, showing a lot of personality in their roles. Donnie Yen plays a great badass villain, Tony Jaa, Ruby Rose and Rory McCann are a lot of fun to watch, having some of the best individual moments in the film, Deepika Padukone gives her performance a bit of weight without going into a stereotype for how Western audiences traditionally utilise Bollywood actresses and Nina Dobrev made me laugh the most with her comic relief role, which could have easily turned annoying in the hands of another actress.

The technical side of the film is where the film shines though. Not so much with the CG, which is pretty laughable for the most part, or with the music which is pretty forgettable, but with the action scenes. The direction of the action scenes is solid all around, creating some tense, engaging and brilliantly ridiculous setpieces. Certain actors are given preferential treatment in the action scenes though, mainly Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa, the film utilising their martial arts expertise to create some brilliantly intense action scenes. Special praise has to go to the stunt team on the film, making great use of both the sporting pedigree of the series (with the use of skis, skateboards and motorbikes to create some very impressive stunts) but also near the end of the film with scenes involving fighting in traffic, mainly a scene involving a fight on the top of a moving lorry. I’ve always been impressed with great stunt coordination and this film is no exception.

Overall, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is the epitome of junk food cinema. There’s nothing substantial in it, has a few questionable elements and won’t hold any impact after you’ve seen it, but whilst you’re watching it you’re so caught up in the glorious stupidity of the film that you can’t help but have a good time. I won’t remember a thing about the film once I’ve finished writing this review but for the time the film is on, I had a blast.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s