Review: XXX: Return of Xander Cage

With the Fast & Furious series as arguably the premiere action blockbuster series in the world, Vin Diesel has returned to another of his former franchises, the XXX series, and applied the Fast formula to it and the results are as wonderfully insane and ridiculous as you would hope.

Being presumed dead during the attack on agents in XXX: State of the Union, Xander Cage (Diesel) has been lying low in South America, using his xtreme sports skills to do things like steal satellite TV for local villagers when Agent Marke (Toni Collette) tracks him down to help recover a MacGuffin called Pandora’s Box, an stupidly ridiculous weapon that can drop orbiting satellites on any point on Earth.  The device was stolen by a group led by Donnie Yen’s Xiang, who (spoilers but honestly, who cares about the plot?) is revealed in short order to also be a XXX agent.  Ditching the military grunts Marke tries to saddle him with, Xander recruits his own team which features bad ass sniper Adele (Ruby Rose), DJ (that’s really it) Nicks (Kris Wu) and stunt driver and crazy conspiracy nut Tennyson (Rory McCann) to hunt down Xiang’s group, which has equally xtreme members like brawling partners Talon (Tony Jaa) and Hawk (Michael Bisping) and rebel activist Serena (Deepika Padukone).  Xander’s groups is also helped by nerdy tech girl Becky (Nina Dobrev).  The team aspect is a huge improvement over the original where Xander lone wolfed his way into Anarchy 99 and everyone is a lot of fun although some of them are a little underused, like Tony Jaa, who doesn’t really get to sink his teeth into an awesome fight scene like Donnie Yen does.  Ruby Rose is incredible as almost supernaturally good sniper Adele and provides some great snarky commentary while looking through the crosshairs and Nina Dobrev is a big improvement over the XXX movies former gadget person, Agent Toby, who was kind of just an annoying douche.  Becky is a funny and weird mix of neurotic and horny and comes up with some fun new gadgets like robotic gloves that enhance the wearer’s punching power and next gen body armor.  It shouldn’t be a surprise but Donnie Yen is just the best and steals every scene he’s in this movie, even right from the start with an incredible fight scene against some CIA/NSA higher ups, and engages Xander in increasingly ridiculous action sequences like the motocross chase across the ocean you saw in the trailer or a parkour fight in the middle of full speed traffic in Detroit.  It was spoiled in a TV commercial so I don’t feel bad also mentioning that Ice Cube has a cameo as Darius Stone and it is glorious, arriving as the cavalry when the XXX team is pinned down by enemy goons.

The first XXX was not self aware that shit like it’s opening diss to James Bond and Xander committing felonies with Tony Hawk were stupid and should have been more fun.  Return of Xander Cage, learning from the Fast movies, is completely aware of how ridiculous it is and just takes it’s xtreme attitude to wonderfully stupid new levels whether it’s Samuel L. Jackson pitching the XXX program by referencing Z Boys and Dogtown or Xander skiing and then skateboarding through the jungle, nothing in this movie should be treated with anything remotely close to a straight face.  If you honestly have logic questions about anything that happens, the answer will always be “because it’s fun”.  There’s still a few lingering bits of the original’s attitude and ego, like the fact that Xander is apparently irresistible to almost every woman in the movie with one particularly ridiculous scene where he has sex with at least half a dozen women at once but most of that has been replaced by the “go big or go home” fun brought over from the Fast series.

Return of Xander Cage is, although it’s not much of a competition, the best XXX movie, full of ridiculous action, two teams of fun, crazy bad asses and a self aware attitude about how ludicrous everything happening on screen is.  It’s not quite up to the level of the Fast & Furious movies since Fast Five but hopefully this team gets another shot and maybe get to that level.

 

Leave a Reply