Title: xXx: Return of Xander Cage
Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:
Lance Murdock: Ladies and gentlemen, and especially little children, I'm glad you're all here to witness what may very well be my grisly death.
Brief Plot Synopsis: He rides a motorcycle underwater; she roundhouse kicks in a miniskirt. They fight crime.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: One bag of Cheetos Pizza Puffs out of five.
Tagline: "There are no more patriots, just rebels and tyrants."
Better Tagline: "Xander Cage voted Gary Johnson."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) may be dead (???), but the “XXX” program is still going strong, thanks to NSA Agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson). However, when Gibbons is killed by a falling satellite, his colleague Jane Marke (Toni Collette) seeks Cage out to hunt down something called “Pandora’s Box,” which is capable of controlling all of Earth’s satellites. Cage’s investigation leads him to the lair of the criminal Xiang (Donnie Yen) and his second-in-command, Serena (Deepika Padukone), who are connected to Cage in ways other than just an affinity for sick tattoos and BASE jumping.
"Critical" Analysis: In a year, nay – decade – full of unwanted sequels, it might initially be hard to fathom how anyone decided 2016 was the perfect time to resurrect an 11-year-old property featuring extreme athletes recruited to be spies. Diesel himself didn't even come back for the second one (the extended DVD release actually showed his body double getting offed). But if the events of the past year have shown us anything, the xXx movies are probably exactly what we deserve.
On one hand, it was kind of refreshing to travel back through the mists of time to the early ’Aughts, when giants like Tony Hawk and Mat Hoffman strode the earth and Mountain Dew only came in three flavors (original, diet and Code Red). So if you enjoy the idea of bald stuntmen para-ski/skateboarding through tropical jungle in order to deliver pirated satellite programming to Latin America poor people, this is definitely the movie for you.
For everyone else, your enjoyment of Return of Xander Cage might hinge on how fond you are of director D.J. Caruso’s Michael Bay-esque proclivity for filming women at crotch level. Indeed, the only female characters escaping the dread “slow tilt up the pelvis/torso” are Ruby Rose’s sniper Adele (too butch) and Collette (too old; why, she’s almost as ancient as Diesel himself). A fondness for seeing an almost 50-year old man wearing JNCO shorts and CGI that looks like it came straight out of a PS2 game’s cut scene will also help.
According to IMDb, the movie was written by someone named “F. Scott Frazier.” His earlier credits simply list him as “Scott Frazier,” which means at some point upon embarking on his writing career, Frazier consciously decided to adopt a moniker that would draw inevitable comparisons to the Great Gatsby author. That he did this while producing dialogue like “Shit is getting real!” and “We’re *all* Triple X” is, to put it mildly, extraordinary.
Then again, it’s not hard to believe the script was filed away shortly after the first xXx movie and forgotten until just recently. How else to explain the not-at-all anachronistic jokes referencing "Dance Dance Revolution" and Red Bull? They even trot out Darius Stone (Ice Cube), the least convincing “ex-Navy SEAL” of all time, for the climactic firefight. This is mostly unnecessary, since the only member of Cage’s (impressively diverse) Team Extreme to get shot is Tennyson “The Torch” (Rory McCann), and then only because he charges the shooters unarmed (because he’s *craaazy*).
Which is too bad, because McCann is one of the only reasons to watch this. The other is Donnie Yen, who — between this and Rogue One — is enjoying quite the career renaissance (“Yenaissance?”). His fight scenes, sporadic as they may be, are a joy to behold, and if someone were to create an xXx spinoff with just Xiang and Tennyson, there would probably be more than a few takers. It’s almost enough to forgive the criminal underuse of Tony Jaa (as Talon, who bounces off of things a lot but barely fights).
Contrast that with the film debut of future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez (playing one of Marke’s soliders) — continuing the proud NFL acting tradition set forth by Firestorm’s Howie Long and Caveman’s John Matuszak — and Collette herself, looking like she’s barely stifling a yawn in half her scenes.
xXx: Return of Xander Cage is — like Dragnet’s Emil Muzz — big, bad and stupid-looking. The plot is nonsensical when not laughably simplistic, the plot “twists” are hackneyed enough to make Tom Clancy blush, and the best things about it (Yen and McCann, recall) get a total of about 15 minutes screen time. Life is short, possibly even more so now that we have a potential Secretary of Energy who doesn’t understand “nucular” weapons. So stop watching shitty movies.