xXx: Return of Xander Cage Review

So I watched xXx: Return of Xander Cage…

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I remember when I was a kid, one of my favourite pieces of junk food were these things that we referred to as “puffs”. There were aptly made because they were literally pieces of flavoured air. No, I wasn’t vaping as a kid. Puffs were a type of chip snack that held absolutely no nutritional value. I didn’t care though, they were tasty. xXx: Return of Xander Cage is much the same way. It’s not a piece of fine cinema that will leave you with a deeper understanding of life or yourself but damnit if it isn’t satisfying to watch!

Okay, basic plot: After Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) is killed during a terrorist attack and said terrorists attack CIA Headquarters, Agent Jane Marke (Toni Collette) decides conventional soldiers aren’t what’s needed to curb this new threat. She goes in search of Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) – the original xXx – who is presumed dead to help avenge Gibbons’ death. Although initially reluctant, Xander rejoins the CIA and takes up the mantle of xXx again. He assembles a team to take down this new terrorist group but is in for a shock when he discovers that he wasn’t the only xXx the CIA recruited…

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This film’s plot is an absolute joke. It feels like whenever the sequel to a popular action movie comes out, everyone’s focus is on the stunts and action and no one gives a damn about the story behind the action. In the last xXx film, State of The Union, we’re told Xander Cage has being killed. This movie laughs that fact off and doesn’t even try to explain how Cage survived. Every time there’s an obstacle in the film, it’s solution is casually glossed over. CIA can’t track the terrorists? Boom. Xander can. Outnumbered in a gun fight? Boom. Xander gets you reinforcements. Weapon hurdling towards. BOOM. Xander blows it out the sky just by looking at it. This film should have been called xXx: The Second Coming of our Lord and Saviour, Xander Cage. This robs the film of any tension because you’re never worried that our heroes are in actual peril.

Not only does this film’s ‘script’ stop our heroes from being in danger; they somehow also managed to have their skeletons coated in adamantium and use Deadpool’s healing factor as seasoning in all their food. People in this movie CANNOT die. They can’t even be hurt. There’s a scene where two characters literally get hit by fast-moving cars and shrug off the impact like it was a warm hug. People get shot and hardly react. Vin Diesel has already pushed the limits of invincibility in The Fast & Furious Franchise but the things he does in this movie will literally have you thinking he’s a god. Speaking of The Fast and Furious Franchise, there are multiple moments in this movie where you could be forgiven for thinking you’re watching one of those films. The action is so indistinct, I swear the same people who come up with those action sequences worked on this film’s action set-pieces.

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Now that I’ve criticised this film and appeased both the Oscar gods and my more cultured, refined side; let’s get to the real reason anyone watches one of these movies – it’s freaking AWESOME! Yes, the plot is nonsense and the acting is suspect at best and heinous at worst; but you don’t buy a ticket for this kind of film because you expect a thespian showcase. You go into it  because you want to see things blowing up and people saying cool one-liners. That’s what this film offers you. It’s something that director, D.J. Caruso seemed to understand well. It’s quite clear that this movie doesn’t take itself seriously. From the guest cameos to the title cards that introduce each character, it’s abundantly clear that the filmmakers wanted to pack in as much action as they could.

We get to see Vin Diesel skiing in a forest, not a snow slope, a FOREST! Want to see people play a weird game of chicken with live grenades? xXx does that kinda stuff on a slow Sunday. You like Donnie Yen? You like seeing Yen kick multiple pieces of ass at once? You’re in luck! This film is a nutrition-less, sugary piece of junk food that you’ll hate yourself for enjoying but it’s not ashamed of what it is. Yes, the poor story undercuts all of the action because none of it means anything; but sometimes you just need to see someone jump out of a plane with no parachute and survive the fall because…well…because…if you don’t understand why that’s awesome then no one can explain it to you.

Overall, xXx: Return of Xander Cage is not the best made or most beautifully written film you’ll ever see. There are almost no stakes and this undercuts the majority of its grand action. It also criminally misuses Donnie Yen and turns him from potentially intriguing villain to Vin Diesel sidekick. There are better action movies with a more compelling story to back them up but if you’re looking for a bag of puffs to temporarily fill your stomach, this movie is for you. 6/10

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