xXx: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE (USA/12A/107mins)
Directed by D.J. Caruso. Starring Vin Diesel, Toni Collette, Samuel L. Jackson, Roby Rose, Nina Dobrev.
THE PLOT: Long believed to be dead, former xXx agent Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) comes out of retirement when a powerful weapon known as Pandora’s Box is stolen from the CIA.
THE VERDICT: Fifteen years after he last played Xander Cage – the character did not appear in 2005’s ‘xXx: State of the Union’, Vin Diesel returns to kick some ass and save the world, in a deeply flawed, loud and dumb action flick.
As mentioned Vin Diesel returns to the role he last played in 2002, making Xander Cage a tough, rebellious character who is prone to a quip before saving the day. The rest of the cast features Ruby Rose, Samuel L. Jackson, Deepika Padukone, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev and Toni Collette, who only just about manages to make the expository and clichéd dialogue her character is given work. The rest of the cast labour under stereotypical roles, with the women coming out particularly badly; Dobrev’s character manages to introduce herself by telling Xander Cage her safe word, and it’s all downhill from there.
Scott Frazier’s screenplay focuses squarely on the action sequences, with the storyline – something about crashing satellites and double crosses – coming resolutely second. The characters in the film are given little chance to come across as real people, and the women in the film are little more that objects of desire, even as they kick ass, they manage to look sexualised as they do it. The dialogue is cheesy and cliché, and the story often defies logic in order to make Cage look just that little bit better and more badass.
Director D.J. Caruso obviously relishes the action sequences in the film, which are mostly well-realised and corny dialogue aside, a bit of brainless fun, but he gives his actors little chance to round their characters out and make them anything more than one dimensional. There is definite feel of misogyny about the whole film, as lingering camera shots down women’s bodies, overly sexualised costumes and love scenes that arrive out of nowhere make sure that women are objectified and discarded as soon as the film has no use for them.
In all,’ xXx: The Return of Xander Cage’ is a film for the fans of the franchise. If, however, you like your action movies big, dumb and loud, and your women completely objectified, then this is the movie for you.
RATING: 1/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Vin Diesel seems to be very keen on franchise-building these days. He’s the driving force behind The Fast And The Furious franchise, as well as the Riddick franchise. Now he’s resurrecting another of his characters from the previous decade in xXx: Return Of Xander Cage.

    Reports of Xander Cage’s demise were greatly exaggerated. He’s just been laying low and taking it easy in the Dominican Republic. However, the extreme sports enthusiast / spy / ladies man is called back in by NSA boss Jane (Toni Collette) when something happens to his old handler, Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson). A crack team of spies led by Xiang (Donnie Yen) has stolen a piece of technology known as Pandora’s Box. A hi-tech surveillance system, it also has the ability to down Earth-orbiting satellites to disastrous effect. Xander puts together his own team including wisecracking sniper Adele (Ruby Rose) and gruff Tennyson (Rory McCann) to track down Xiang and stop them from holding the world at ransom. But all is not what it seems…

    For this reviewer anyway, xXx is a dimly-remembered action film from 2002 which was fun in its own outrageous, sub-Bond way. The Diesel-free, Ice Cube-starring sequel The Next Level followed in 2005 but was overblown and swapped Diesel’s charisma for Ice Cube’s permanent scowl. Then nothing for 12 years, a gap that’s frankly too long. The world has moved on since these brainless action films of the Noughties. We’re now living in the age of brainy action films from master directors like Christopher Nolan and Sam Mendes. In that sense, Return Of Xander Cage feels dated. The technology may feel up-to-date but the plot and script sure ain’t. Hanging an entire plot on that old McGuffin, the stolen device that may unleash war, is Screenwriting 101. There’s a far better idea set up in the opening scene: revenge. That’s a universal motivator that doesn’t age.

    Besides the tired plot, the action sequences are more ridiculous than they need to be – clearly the influence of the more recent The Fast And The Furious films. At least that franchise had a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour about those sequences. One chase sequence between Xander and Xiang involves… motorbike surfing? Hmm… There’s a fairly simple formula here – girls, guns, fights and explosions. Repeat again. Director D.J. Caruso started out with some interesting films like Taking Lives and Disturbia, but he’s just a director for hire here. Diesel just about keeps things moving, but Collette is utterly wasted in a nothing role. Yen’s character is pretty shallow – a far cry from the quiet resolve and strength of one his best characters – Ip Man. There’s some fun to be had here though, like McCann and Rose’s wisecracks and Tony Jaa’s fight sequences. It’s very obvious that Diesel, who also produces here, is keen on building a new team of heroes much like in The Fast And The Furious franchise. But in reality, xXx is a lower-tier property that belongs in the last decade. Dumb fun but nothing more. **