Saturday, September 9, 2017

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  The movie that makes one think that every sentence ends with the word "bro."




xXx:  The Return of Xander Cage – 3 out of 5


After The Iron Giant, The Fast and the Furious and Pitch Black came out, I became a fan of Vin Diesel and, in the early 2000’s, eagerly awaited his next feature; xXx.  While I’m not an extreme sports guy (the closet I got was playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater back in the day), I found the idea of a rude, crude and tattooed man becoming a spy and being the direct antithesis of your prim and proper agent to be a slick idea.  The film came out and I thought it was okay.  Later a sequel was made without Diesel and I found that one kinda dumb.  However, when a third film was announced with Diesel returning, I was kinda interested but, at the same time, being very skeptical.  When the trailer was released, I was mildly interested in it and, now that it is out to rent, I decided to give it a shot.  It wasn’t great but I will say I did find it better than the first film.

Sam Jackson can do no wrong in my book.


The smokey eye look works for you, Collette!
After an assassination of a highly respected target occurs and the CIA is robbed of a device called “Pandora’s Box;” a piece of equipment that is capable of controlling any and all satellites and can be used to bring them crashing to earth, the government is forced to ask for help from one of their former operatives.  CIA agent Jane Marke (Toni Collette) is in charge of tracking down Xander Cage (Diesel) and using him to stop the ones who took Pandora’s Box.  Reluctantly, Cage agrees and enlists a team of his own choosing; for some reason, a DJ named Nicks (Kris Wu), sharpshooter sniper; Adele Wolff (Ruby Rose) and a driver with the record for the most crashes; Tennyson (Rory McCann).  Together, they get extreme as they track down the criminal responsible for the theft; Xiang (Donnie Yen).  However, Cage will soon discover that the players in this sport aren’t nearly as defined as they seem to be. 

Donnie Yen is honestly one of the movie's biggest highlights.


I’m not really sure if the extreme sports angle plays anymore in 2017.  I don’t know if the X-games are still cool or if bungee jumping while chugging a Mt. Dew is something the hip kids do anymore so there is an element of xXx:  The Return of Xander Cage that feels dated and maybe like it is out of place.  Adding to the fact and not helping things is that this film feels like it is The Fast and the Furious—another franchise starring Diesel—but with half the calories and half the excitement.  I won’t pull any punches here and I’ll just say it straight out:  This new addition to the xXx franchise can be quite dumb and silly at times.  That being said, I will add this one caveat:  It can also be really fun too.

Dirt Bike Kung-Fu!


This second adventure with Xander Cage spends most of the time jumping back and forth from being really over-the-top fun to being really over-the-top dumb.  The characters, the action, the story—all of it is either good or bad and, sometimes, it’s both.  For example, you have some very colorful and amusing characters that are awesome on paper and, sadly, only a few of them are cool in execution.  Adele Wolff seems like she’d be a badass but she’s hampered by Rose’s performance as she plays her like she’s constantly trying to be the coolest and most badass in the room—and it’s weird that she’s constantly smirking as she snipes people.  Then there’s the mystery of Cage enlisting a DJ for his team.  Why?

His mixing skills will overwhelm enemies, maybe?


He's silly but, damn, Tennyson was a fun character.
The DJ character element doesn’t even work on paper; it’s just silly and makes no damn sense.  They should have just deleted him from the script and gave more scenes to Rory McCann as Tennyson because A) he’s The Hound and B) his character has some potential.  Granted, I will say that Donnie Yen’s character of Xiang has that right blend of being a badass and being a charismatic antagonist.  However, a huge part of this comes from the natural talents of Yen and not so much from the writing.  One character above the others, ultimately though, I felt was terribly uninteresting.  That character was Xander Cage himself.

"Me?  Why bro?"


Cage is, basically, too perfect.  He’s good at everything he does and apparently has no limits to his skills.  There isn’t an extreme sport he isn’t a master at—the dude literally can somehow perform a perfect backflip with a dirt bike from a immobile position.  No one is capable of pulling the wool over his eyes as sees everything that goes on around him.  He’s impossibly cool in all situations.  Finally, every woman that encounters him in the film falls all over themselves to be with him.  There’s a terrible sequence that involves the CIA’s tech specialist for Cage’s team and the lady is basically stumbling and stammering to let him that, with nothing but a nod of the head, she’ll drop her pants and let him go to town. 

The scene with her coming on to Cage was very difficult to endure.
  

Cage has no weaknesses, no drawbacks and no limitations.  He isn’t confident, he’s obnoxiously cocky and arrogant and he has little-to-no use for his team because the film pretty much establishes he can do it all.  The only reason he has help is because he can’t physically be in more than one place at a time.  Without any limits or barriers to him as a character, Cage is boring.  There’s nothing special about him because we have several lifetimes’ worth of films that basically have the same male protagonist hero that can do anything.  Imagine if a film did this with a female hero...the MRA's would have a field day but, when we do it with a dude character, it's just business as usual.

And don't get me started on that jacket.


Now, saying I thought the titular character is boring and pretty lame is a huge hit for the product and you’re probably wondering why I gave this film the average score of 3 out of 5.  Simply put, this film does have a solid story and the action has a really great habit of being fun in that over-the-top way.  Sure, there’s some action that is too much for the suspension of disbelief but, for the most part, what is delivered is that ridiculous, fun, and exciting big budget popcorn blockbuster action.  Add in that the cast are all doing a great job, there's some fun gags and the feature's slick presentation and refusal to take itself too serious, and the end result is a mindless movie that is very enjoyable in the moment.

Hey, it's Agent Cameo!


xXx:  The Return of Xander Cage isn’t a game changer for the action genre and it’s not going to really cement this franchise as a contender but I found some merit within its entertainment value.  Despite the fact that this feature does feel like a by-gone product of the early 2000’s and the “Do the Dew”/Grip it and Ripe it extreme spy built on Doritos and Red Bull doesn’t really feel like it is a feature that should have been made and released in 2017, I won’t deny that it’s themes of being the anti-James Bond does lend it some credibility to be a minor league franchise.  xXx will never be something that will be in the same level as the Fast and the Furious films (nor will it be a franchise you can safely Google) but this movie proved it’s capable of creating something decent and even capable of being a sequel that is marginally better than the feature that started it all.

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