XXX: Return of Xander Cage

Director: D.J. Caruso

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

Written by: Rich Wilkes and (based on the characters created) F. Scott Frazier

Running Time: 107 mins

Cert: 12A

Release date: 19th January 2017

Back in 2002, I attended the UK premiere of XXX, a wham-bang spy thriller for the extreme sports age. It was introduced by a very uncharismatic Vin Deisel, proclaiming that he was nervous about showing a spy film in the country of James Bond’s birth. It was mildly distracting in a guilty pleasure way but no real competition for 007. Then came the sequel, XXX: State of the Union, minus Mr Deisel (he had priced himself out) and his replacement was obvious…Ice Cube! Instantly forgettable for both audiences and makers. Now, 12 years since the last disaster, someone thought it was a good time to reintroduce the XXX franchise, maybe bringing back the Vin would be a winner. No, actually, it’s not.

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A computer weapon known as Pandora’s Box is stolen by a rogue gang from right under the noses of the CIA. With no hope of getting it back, CIA boss Jane Marke decides to reinstate the XXX programme and try to persuade Xander Cage to return. Getting together a group of adrenaline junkies as his team, Xander must track down the terrorists who are holding the world to ransom, as they threaten to drop satellites onto particular targets. The gang in question, though, are not what they seem.

This is a mess of a movie. Director D.J. Caruso seems to think that by throwing the camera around and having hundreds of quick edits make for an exciting action adventure. They don’t. In fact, along with the ridiculously contrived plot that makes no sense what so ever, adding the snap-happy editing and whirlwind cinematography just makes it even more impossible to follow, thus boring the audience in the process.

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What also doesn’t help is that the endless set pieces are pretty uneventful and don’t take the action movie genre to any new levels. There is nothing here that we haven’t seen before, even in the previous XXX movies. We get motorbikes used as weapons, lots of shooting and explosions, a chase in the ocean of surf-bikes (which quite frankly made one audience member watching in the screening I attended verbalise “Really?”) while the soundtrack of house and dance tracks mixed with rock got pumped up to the loudest setting possible, in order for you to be deafened into thinking this is exciting.

Then there are the countless half-naked women gyrating around whose sole purpose for being there is to excite the pre-pubescent teenage boys this film is obviously aimed at. Michael Bay, eat your heart out! What makes this worst is that the filmmakers (and Vin Deisel) seem to think that he is irresistible to women and that he can sleep with anyone of them at the drop of a hat. One extremely pointless sequence sees the Deisel doing the dance of love with some throwaway female that served no point in the story but to embarrass any under 12s who went along with their parents!

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The performances are pretty ordinary as the cast struggle with ridiculous lines and cliched comments. Deisel lumbers around in almost every shot, showing his bulked up body any opportunity possible, proving his muscles have more acting talent than he does. Toni Collete, as the CIA boss, is wildly miscast and even a solid, reliable actress as she, cannot perform miracles with a script this bad. Martial Arts stars Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa are undersold as the constant cutting ruins the chance for the audience to enjoy their high kicks.

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XXX: Return Of Xander Cage is a dull, uninteresting mess. It’s loud, preposterous and unbelievably boring and deserves to share the same fate as the second in the series, which is to be forgotten. If this is supposed to reinvigorate the franchise, it’s failed miserably and only the hard-nosed fan of the series will get anything out of this. All I got was a headache.

1/5

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