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xXx Return of Xander Cage
(L-R) Vin Diesel as Xander Cage and Deepika Padukone as Serena Unger in xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE by Paramount Pictures and Revolution Studios

Review: xXx: Return of Xander Cage

In 2006, Vin Diesel announced that he would be returning as Xander Cage in a second sequel. Finally, after years of changing film studios, directors and production schedules, “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” is finally here and our J.P. has his review.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage
Paramount Pictures

Director: DJ Caruso
Executive Producers: Vince Tontino, Scott Hemming, Ric Kidney, Gloria Borders, Zach Roth
Producers: Joe Roth, Jeff Kirschenbaum, Vin Diesel, Samantha Vincent
Cast: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Toni Collette, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, Tony Jaa, Kris Wu, Michael Bisping, Rory McCann, Nicky Jam, Neymar Jr., Samuel L. Jackson

Studio Synopsis:
The third explosive chapter of the blockbuster franchise that redefined the spy thriller finds extreme athlete turned government operative Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) coming out of self-imposed exile and on a collision course with deadly alpha warrior Xiang and his team in a race to recover a sinister and seemingly unstoppable weapon known as Pandora’s Box. Recruiting an all-new group of thrill-seeking cohorts, Xander finds himself enmeshed in a deadly conspiracy that points to collusion at the highest levels of world governments. Packed with the series’ signature deadpan wit and bad-ass attitude, “xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE” will raise the bar on extreme action with some of the most mind-blowing stunts to ever be caught on film.

J.P.’s Take:

(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

Once you’ve experienced the rush that is “xXx: Return of Xander Cage,” you’ll understand why there are three X’s in its title. Simply put, it is the utmost of action movie porn. I would compare it to a Red Bull extreme sports event on crack. Better still “Mission Impossible” pumped with steroids. Indeed, this comeback has Vin Diesel written all over it. However, does it produce enough adrenaline to revive the franchise?

First off, the unfortunate aspect of this film series is the lull felt in Diesel’s absence for the second sequel, “xXx: State of the Union.,” Although the follow-up is a bit more excitable than its predecessor, I believe fans felt Diesel’s presence was sorely needed. In any case, the very capable Ice Cube stepped in to cover for Vin Diesel, for which he got the chance to flex his action hero muscles for a change. Although I wasn’t too impressed with the original 2002’s “xXx” to begin with, I did feel Part 2 brought a livelier spirit to the title. Now, Part 3 ups the ante tenfold with director D.J. Caruso moving into Michael Bay territory in terms of explosive exploits.

xXx Return of Xander Cage

(L-R) Tony Jaa as Talon, Michael Bisping as Hawk, Donnie Yen as Xiang and Deepika Padukone as Serena Unger in xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE by Paramount Pictures and Revolution Studios

In “Return of Xander Cage,” Caruso gets the party jumping with a team of highly athletic criminals performing slickly choreographed martial arts stunts. Fight scenes that take place in the CIA boardroom are particularly enjoyable, mainly for Xiang’s (Donnie Yen) cat like reflexes and gun-fu interplay with CIA operatives. Setting off those moments is Talon’s (Tony Jaa) daredevil parkour leap from one building to the next. He crashes through the glass skylight and slips past the guards like a salamander. Of course, you can expect Vin Diesel to make his grand entrance freefalling from a transmission tower while strapped with skis. He parachutes into the forest, where in a Bond-like chase scene, gets away from the baddies. You can expect a dizzying assortment of vehicle crashes, hand-to-hand combat and a hail storm of bullets. The fight scenes are performed with lightening speed and lethal results. Things get even wilder towards the end when Xander and Xiang team up to put a beat down on rouge soldiers. This all takes place on a military cargo plane caught in a nose dive situation. While they’re all floating like butterflies, they continue to kick, punch and shoot their way through their enemies. The “Matrix” movies got nothing on those scenes.

xXx Return of Xander Cage

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

Admittedly it was all quite exhilarating to watch — if a bit bonkers, which is more than I can say for a plot that can be found on any thrilling 30-minute weekly TV series. Yet the focus falls mainly on the cast of characters than the total story. Xander has to put together a team of merry rebels, which he does. All endowed with certain attributes fitting within the realm of what the triple X program entails. Not to mention he has to contend with his new handler, the stiff upper lipped CIA director Jane Marke (Toni Collete).

As typical of male-dominated action flicks, misogyny is the name of the game. You’ll, of course, find a gaggle of bikini-clad women all throwing themselves at the legendary figure. Cage, of course, wastes no time getting his freak on then jumping right into danger when duty calls. A couple of scenes make for a perfect example: Xander meets with a British intelligence agent named Ainsley (Hermione Corfield). And although the camera ogles her body like a music video maven, he doesn’t get the chance to play with her. She doesn’t fall for his charm, yet instead, she unleashes her harem of computer hacking hotties up on him. In the next scene, he wakes up from the pile of ladies smiling like a Cheshire cat. Flash to an encounter with the cutesy and geeky Becky (Nina Dobrev), who within the first moments clings to Cage like spandex. She goes as far as gives him her “safe word” for just such an occasion as – well you know – end up in the sack. Not to mention her fondling him like a lapdog. It’s both chucklesome and just a tad tacky to view.

xXx Return of Xander Cage

Nicky Jam as Lazarus in xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE by Paramount Pictures and Revolution Studios

Making up for the lack of girl power here are two power players of the female persuasion. The alluring Serena (Deepika Padukone) and sure shot sniper Adele Wolff (Ruby Rose) are the types of ladies you want on a team of crack extreme athletes/spies. I felt there was more thought put into placing the right characters in the proper situations to expose their talents.

It seems all actors/actresses were on board for this blow-out as the chemistry between them gelled nicely:

  • Donnie Yen does what martial artists/actors do best and that is kick butt with true skill. Yen made a striking introduction in the American film market, leaping from the “Ip Man” franchise to play Chirrut Imwe in “Rouge One: A Star Wars Story.”
  • Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone makes a nice splash here in her American film debut. She plays the alluring and somewhat mysterious Serena Unger. Aside from the fact that she photographs quite nicely on screen, she works well as an action heroine as well.
  • Tony Jaa playing Talon. I felt was a little underutilized as he was given the role of an acrobat basically. Not that his skills aren’t noteworthy; he too could fight just as well as Yen. Maybe they felt it wasn’t necessary to have two of a kind.
  • Ruby Rose as the spunky sniper Adele Wolff is the kind of “tomboy” you want on your side. Rose gave Adele the kind of feisty attitude fitting of a rebel rousing female killer.
  • xXx Return of Xander Cage

    (L-R) Vin Diesel and director, D.J. Caruso on the set of the film xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE by Paramount Pictures and Revolution Studios

    Kris Wu as Nicks is nothing more than a youngster, who’s only real skill being an awesome D.J. So when in danger at a club, he creates a diversion by playing some “killer” cuts. I guess that’s a skill to be had in a crack team of antiheroes.

  • UFC fighter turned actor Michael Bisping, who pretty much plays himself in a matter of speaking. Playing Hawk, he’s more so the muscle, giving baddies a beat down while taking a beating.
  • Nina Dobrev always manages to bring the sex appeal to any of her characters. Although the former “The Vampire Diaries” star was supposedly the geek here, she an oversexed geek at that. Guess it’s because her character doesn’t get out much.
  • Toni Collete fully embraced her role as Jane Marke as she scowls grimaces and barks her orders at Cage. I liked her sly underhanded wit. The real wild child of the bunch would be Rory McCann as the “crash test” stunt man Tennyson Torch. His antics will have you cringing and wincing at his death-defying behavior.
  • Rounding out the cast is Samuel L. Jackson as Triple X team director Augustus Gibbons, who’s only in the film for a few minutes. He’s up to his old car salesman spiel trying to recruit real-life soccer player Neymar to the Triple X program.
  • Newcomer Hermione Corfield as Ainsley brings sexiness with class to her character.
  • Ice Cube makes a cameo appearance near the end and does so with coolness.

Don’t bother to see “XXX: Return of Xander Cage” if you’re looking for a highly intelligent mind teaser. You won’t find that here. I took it at face value – as a volatile thrill ride that even an amusement park couldn’t match.

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