xXx: Return Of Xander Cage (2017) Review xXx: Return Of Xander Cage (2017) Review
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It’s time to leave your brain firmly at the entrance of the cinema as we take another trip to the Xander Zone… 2002 was... xXx: Return Of Xander Cage (2017) Review

It’s time to leave your brain firmly at the entrance of the cinema as we take another trip to the Xander Zone…

2002 was certainly kind to Vin Diesel, introducing him as a powerhouse of blockbuster cinema as he introduced to audiences Xander Cage in the over-the-top yet likeable xXx, competing – and ultimately coming out rather unscathed – against rather dismal actioners such as Die Another Day. Then came the inevitable sequel, one that couldn’t quite muster the budget for big Vin’s return and instead rendered Xander dead and Ice Cube the new lead. Inevitably it bombed and with it the thoughts of any furthering of the ‘franchise’ – or so we thought…

Enter xXx: Return Of Xander Cage, the trilogy creator, over-the-top actioner and the proof that Vin Diesel simply cannot deliver a one-liner unless he’s bellowing out the words ‘I am Groot’. It’s the sequel that no-one demanded but at least there could be some solace in big Vin returning to the fray, right? In the main it’s a big no, at the very least though xXx 3.0 does muster up some moments of guilty pleasure-defined fun, albeit among a rather tiresome and lacking overall picture.

After an introduction involving none other than Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) and Neymar Jr. sharing a quick bite (seriously), we are plunged into a story that sees the world in danger as a new weapon named ‘Pandora’s Box’ is sought out by the villainous Xiang (Donnie Yen) and threatens national security. Fortunately, it turns out that Xander Cage (Diesel) is indeed alive and is eventually recruited by Toni Collette’s Jane Marke to take the threat down. As Xander recruits a team of his own, the threat increases and he has to put all his daredevil skills to the test to save the day.

Having spent years establishing the Fast and Furious franchise into a behemoth of the blockbuster scene, it’s fair to say that Vin Diesel knows how to do things ‘over-the-top’, but even xXx: Return Of Xander Cage pushes those boundaries beyond what we really want to see. Skateboarding up the side of buses and skiing from large structures to land the most impossible jumps within a forest, this latest edition of Cage antics is ridiculous, especially when there are moments that the movie itself lands in territory in which it wants to be taken seriously. And that’s where the problem lies, in the fact that one minute Diesel is attempting – and failing – to deliver one-liners and the next he’s trying to seriously navigate the plot. It makes for often jarring and easily forgettable viewing, especially when it’s wedged between our lead character adding multiple notches to his bedpost like he’s a beefed up James Bond with all the charm of Roger Moore back in the day.

Essentially, this sequel belongs in an era where womanising and silly jokes could cut the mustard and it certainly feels like much of the cast almost know this. While the array of international talent is certainly worthy of plaudits, the cast themselves feel rather lethargic, from the underused Tony Jaa to Toni Collette’s steely Marke they are all too forgettable, and aside from Yen inevitably igniting some action sequences and Rose adding some spark this is a ragtag bunch we don’t particularly care for. And that’s before we even get to Diesel’s portrayal of Cage, who is all swagger and with sexual innuendos left, right and centre, even to the extent of Nina Dobrev’s character being rendered as the girl who literally finds it hard to breathe in his presence. Cheesefest personified.

But for all the film’s shortcomings there are some small bitesize moments of fun and positivity. Some of the action set pieces, as one would predict, are a lot of fun including a stunning plane sequence that concludes with one hell of a bang, and it’s always good to see Ruby Rose strut her stuff and make her mark where she can.

That being said, xXx: Return Of Xander Cage is a film that none of us really wanted and one that belongs in the January release calendar. It’s a film that belongs in an era that has long passed us by and doesn’t quite come under that category under which you would consider it a true guilty pleasure of this day and age. Diesel is rather lacklustre, Yen commands all that he can and Rose blossoms, but ultimately this is an action movie that we’ll soon forget in a few weeks time.

xXx: Return Of Xander Cage is out in cinemas now.

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Jon Dingle Editor

A film journalist, writer and a filmmaker in business for over 20 years. I am passionate about movies, television series, music and online games.