Review: xXx – Return of Xander Cage

(L-R) Vin Diesel as Xander Cage, Toni Collette as Jane Marke, Ruby Rose as Adele Yusef, Nina Dobrev as Rebecca Clearidge, Deepika Padukone as Serena Unger, and Tony Gonzalez as Paul Donovan in xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE by Paramount Pictures and Revolution Studios

There was a magical period in the late 1990s and early 2000s where we believed that the solution to the world’s problems was being more extreme. The attitude permeated everything from our beverages to our cheese-based snacks, and cinema was no exception. It was from this environment that extreme sports action hero Xander Cage emerged, only to be consumed by the ravages of time. Now, at the dawn of 2017, he has returned to once again make our lives more radical.

Long thought dead, a series of events causes Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) to come out of his self-imposed exile to chase down Xiang (Donnie Yen) and the “Pandora’s Box” weapon that is capable of downing satellites. He pulls together a misfit squad of trusted comrades, and xXx is soon running and gunning his way across the world facing down untold sexiness on his way to saving the free world.

Donnie Yen as Xiang in xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE by Paramount Pictures and Revolution Studios

From the opening shot of a satellite falling to the Earth, xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE is a joyous action film, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a while. Director D.J. Caruso switches gears from the extreme sports vibe of the original, and the CG street fight of its sequel, to something of a hybrid of those two styles. The introduction of Donnie Yen, in a spectacularly fast (and furious) heist sequence, is an electric shock to a dormant franchise. Soon, it’s glory shots of bikinis, skateboarding down a mountain with Diesel, or watching an open water chase on jet-ski motorbikes. Here’s a moment to soak in the glory of that last statement.

A massive tip of the hat must go the casting which, like the Fast and Furious series, is a contemporary action film showing how effortless it can be to build a diverse and inclusive cast. Along with from Yen, Ong-Bak (and Furious 7) star Tony Jaa is a co-villain. It might be another reliable martial arts role for an Asian star, but Kris Wu’s character appears to simply be there to spin some records and win the day with awesome DJ skills. It’s that kind of movie. Meanwhile, there’s two female action heroes at the fore, including Australia’s Ruby Rose and Indian superstar Deepika Padukone. Rounding out the cast, Toni Collette is unable to find a piece of scenery that she doesn’t find delicious as an NSA Agent, and she’s having a ball doing it too.

What F. Scott Frazier’s script maintains throughout xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGEis a healthy dose of self-aware thrills. Barely pausing to ponder its own audacity, it barrels along at an explosive pace, setting up all the pieces to be Diesel’s next reliable box office draw. May they always be this extremely fun.

2017 | US | DIR: D. J. Caruso | WRITER: F. Scott Frazier | CAST: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Toni Collette, Samuel L. Jackson | DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount | RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes | RELEASE DATE: 19 January 2017 (AUS), 20 January 2017 (US)