Thursday, December 8, 2022

“XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE”

THE STORY – After coming out of self-imposed exile, daredevil operative Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) must race against time to recover a sinister weapon known as Pandora’s Box, a device that controls every military satellite in the world. Recruiting a new group of thrill-seeking cohorts, Xander finds himself entangled in a deadly conspiracy that points to collusion at the highest levels of government.

THE CAST – Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Toni Collette & Samuel L. Jackson

THE TEAM – D.J. Caruso (Director) & F. Scott Frazier (Writer)
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THE RUNNING TIME – 107 Minutes


1/21/17
​By Matt N.

“xXx” came out fifteen years ago. Let that sink in. Fifteen years ago. And only now are we getting “xXx: Return Of Xander Cage.” Sure, there was “xXx: State Of The Union” in between starring Ice Cube. But what drew everyone to the first film was the star appeal of action man Vin Diesel. Fresh off his hit with 2001’s “The Fast & The Furious” and reuniting with that film’s director, Rob Cohen, “xXx” became a surprise hit financially and with audiences. Critics were mostly mixed but some were taken in by the death-defying stunt work and outrageous James Bond style upgrade for the X-Games crowd. However, with “xXx: Return Of Xander Cage,” all of the goodwill that the original film had has faded and not even the return of Vin Diesel’s character can save this poorly conceived sequel.

Pandora’s box is a weapon, which if fallen into the wrong hands can give a person control over every satellite on Earth. When the NSA (Headed by Toni Collette) realize that this weapon has been stolen by rogue members of the XXX program (Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Deepika Padukone & Michael Bisping) they turn towards Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) who has been in exile since the events of “xXx” (2002). Cage has only one condition: that he recruits his own team to take out Xiang and his men. A sharpshooter (Ruby Rose), stunt driver (Rory McCann), and DJ (Kris Wu) accompany him on a mission that will involve circling the globe, fighting off the villains…and look dope while doing it.

And so the eye rolling begins. I cannot even say with confidence that fans of the original “xXx” will be pleased with this terrible sequel. It’s most likely due to the inevitable comparisons to Vin Diesel’s other starring vehicle, “The Fast & The Furious” franchise and the bar that those films have raised for fans of Vin Diesel in terms of action and storytelling (Yes, I said it). “xXx: Return Of Xander Cage” lacks decent dialogue, a good story or characterization. It’s a dumb, loud action movie with a few average scenes and a few terrible ones that are overloaded with too much CGI for their own good. For some, this will be a guilty pleasure. However, for the majority of people out there, “xXx: Return Of Xander Cage” will be uninspiring and unfulfilling, especially for those with high expectations after a 14-year hiatus and the adrenaline rushes from “The Fast & The Furious” series still lingering in their brain. Not to mention, the constant use of quick cuts and shaky handheld camera movements during the action scenes does the film no favors in the one area that most people were hoping it would get right.

Left to spew the awful dialogue full of one-liners and zingers is Vin Diesel, who has never really been a great actor. As said before, “The Fast & The Furious” franchise has built up enough goodwill for Diesel over the course of his career that we believe him in the role of Dominic Toretto. However, after such a lengthy absent from the role of Xander Cage and now nearing 50 years of age, the 49-year-old actor is simply no longer believable in the tool cool for spy-protocol bad boy that managed to charm us back in 2002. Samuel L. Jackson, of course, shows up and plays…Samuel L. Jackson while Toni Collette (Who is too good for this film) looks like she could do her role in her sleep. The film is also so desperately trying to pull off the whole “family” angle from “The Fast & The Furious” franchise (Starting to notice a trend here?) that all other actors come across as forced and dull. Even the villains such as Tony Jaa and Donnie Yen who are athletic, martial arts masters with some impressive set pieces, are not even properly utilized in what amounts to a selfish cash grab for the studio, not interested in giving any of these new characters their due.

I am not even sure I can find any other negative things to say about “xXx: Return Of Xander Cage” without sounding redundant. If I think about the film a little harder I’m sure I could name plenty more. However, this is a film where it’s practically telling you to shut your brain off and not think about it. Don’t think about how over the top it is. Don’t think about how boring it actually is. Don’t think about how truly awful the dialogue, story, and characters are. I mean, for goodness sake, if I’m not going to think at all during this movie, then at least give me some good visuals to savor. However, “xXx: Return Of Xander Cage” cannot even manage to do that. It took fourteen years to bring Vin Diesel back to this franchise when in all honesty, he should have stayed far away.

THE FINAL SCORE

THE GOOD – Some impressive action sequences featuring Donnie Yen.

THE BAD – Pretty much everything else. Yes, even Vin Diesel who is becoming a self parody.
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THE OSCARS – None

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Matt Neglia
Matt Negliahttps://nextbestpicture.com/
Obsessed about the Oscars, Criterion Collection and all things film 24/7. Critics Choice Member.

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