Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is back in the third instalment of the xXx franchise. The extreme athlete slash government operative is recruited for a new mission which will involve retrieving a powerful weapon that is capable of crashing military satellites called "Pandora's Box" back from Xiang (Donnie Yen) and his gang. Xander rallies up his own team of misfits to retrieve the weapon.
he first xXx was filled with awesome, albeit often physically impossible, motorbike stunts, as well as a snowboarding scene with special effects that have not stood the test of time. It was cheesy and very much verging on the ridiculous, but there was also an infectious sense of fun to it.
n Return of Xander Cage, much of the original’s charm is lost. Toni Colette’s cold-hearted, nagging Jane Marke replaces Samuel L Jackson’s Augustus Eugene Gibbons as Xander’s primary contact. Other weak characterisations include Nicks (Kris Wu), a DJ whose skill is he’s ‘fun to be around.’ Nicks is essentially the Hawkeye of the team and is only really useful for drawing a crowd which Xander escapes in on one occasion, and later for forced comic relief when he’s driving around with the similarly useless driver Tennyson Torch (Rory McCann), who likes to crash into things.
nce Xander agrees to cooperate with Jane (we get the obligatory hesitation first, of course), he turns to web hacker Ainsley (Hermione Corfield), who helps Xander by having her female staff members sleep with him concurrently. Just, no. The scene is totally surplus and unnecessary to the narrative and, frankly, insulting. It doesn’t stop there either. Soon afterwards we are introduced to another young woman who can’t help but fawn over Xander, and she tells him her ‘safe word’ within minutes of meeting him. His eager fan’s name is (what else?) Becky and she has that whole 90’s chick flick ‘I’m wearing glasses but am actually, like, really pretty’ thing going on.
dditionally it’s really hard to take "Pandora's Box" seriously as a legitimate threat when it looks identical to ‘the Internet’ in The IT Crowd.
he film does eventually pick up as more focus is put on Xiang’s gang (who include Deepika Padukone, Tony Jaa and Michael Bisping as well as Donnie Yen) and the action gets kicked up a notch. Padukone in particular gets to shine and Ruby Rose joins her as a credible female hero who is not just a pretty face nor labelled as a smart ass. The earlier scenes of women post-coital or dancing around scantily clad are made up for when they join the men to kick ass later on, so that’s something.
n one of the chase scenes, Xander and Xiang race on motorcycles on water. Scenes like this and a ‘test’ that Xander is put through provide amusing throwback gestures towards the original. Still, the moments of fun that defined the original are few and far between here (although a rather brilliant twist in the third act compensates some of the way for this lack). Overall, xXx Return of Xander Cage suffers from the same problems that a lot of recent action movies do (Suicide Squad in particular comes to mind here, especially given both films employ profile snapshots to introduce their many characters) in that the cast is overcrowded and there’s too much time spent on exposition (and catering to horny boys’ fantasies) before getting to the good action-filled stuff that we came for. Plus when we do get to the action, there's no originality or distinct core set piece that stands out and makes the film memorable beyond departing the cinema.
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