xXx: The Return of Xander Cage Review (DVD Review)

No-one really could have or indeed should have expected this. Back in 2002, if you can think that far back, Vin Diesel appeared for the first time as the extreme sports rebel turned reluctant spy Xander Cage. It was a surprising success making $277 Million off its $70mil. budget. Three years later, a sequel was released this time with O’Shea ‘Ice Cube’ Jackson as the lead but sadly lightning didn’t fully strike twice as it made only $71.1mil off a $60mil. budget. It seemed like this was the end for the budding franchise until a mere 11 years later, Diesel seemingly found a gap in his schedule between Fast & Furious and Guardians of the Galaxy films to fit in a revival. I don’t really know who was asking for a third xXx film but I’m glad they were.

You have to go into a film like this knowing that what you’re about to see is a film in which Vin Diesel plays a rogue former NSA agent brought back to hunt down a piece of stolen tech called ‘Pandora’s Box’ that has the ability to crash satellites out of space as targetted missiles. If you can’t infer from that, this isn’t what you’d call ‘high art’ but you might well call it ‘a bloody good time’. For one thing, Diesel, far removed from his brooding ‘family’-obsessed monologues of the F&F franchise, is able to cut loose and just be charming and charismatic, a role he can play with ease. It also helps that he’s surrounded by other actors having a lot of fun like Ruby Rose as a sniper who hunts animal hunters, Donnie Yen proving between this and Rogue One that he’s a man deserving of his own damn franchise and Game of Thrones‘ Rory McCann as a deranged Scottish conspiracy theorist.

The whole broth is dumb, harmless fun with even less to say about surveillance culture than director Caruso’s previous film Eagle Eye but it is presented in such a well paced, breezy way that you aren’t going to care. Also it is worth noting that with masters like Yen and Tony Jaa among the cast, the hand-to-hand choreography is raised above your Hollywood standard with a set-piece involving three people at a table and two grenades being particularly fun and suspenseful.

Though it has its faults: as good as the set-pieces are, the film never quite finds its groove in terms of villainy lacking any real central threatening figure, despite the best efforts of a surprisingly tenured supporting cast including the ever-superb Toni Collette, as much as its refreshing to see multiple female characters in an action film, none of whom are written as just ‘damsel’, some scenes such as a jaunt to London to visit a group of sexy English hackers come off as having not evolved since the early 90s shlockbusters it harks back to, equally Nina Dobrev’s variation on a theme of socially awkward tech girl can be a bit grating but that seems to be more down to the occasionally overwritten script than anything. Most importantly, who puts Tony Jaa in a film and then doesn’t do anything with him beyond have him do a few flips?

You know what you’re getting with a film like this, you probably also know from the outset whether this film is for you. If you’re not the sort of person who enjoys irascibly silly action films then this is not going to be the film to change your mind. This is the sort of film you could imagine the script featured the word ‘sick’ in how to describe the stunts but you know what? It’s earnt it. It took a franchise that was dead in the water and revived it through sheer glorious, dumb, panache. If the rumours of a fourth film turn out to be true, consider this one ticket sold.

Dir: D.J. Caruso

Scr: F. Scott Frazier

Pro: Joe Roth, Jeff Kirschenbaum, Vin Diesel, Samantha Vincent

Cast: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Toni Collette, Deepika Pakudone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Samuel L. Jackson

D.O.P: Russell Carpenter

Music: Brian Tyler, Robert Lydecker

Country: USA

Year: 2017

Run time: 107 minutes

xXx: Return of Xander Cage is out now on digital download.

Comment