XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE review

Anyone else get a few question marks above their heads when this one was announced?

Alright, so a little back story for those of you that are late in the game. XXX (2002) was a year after THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (2001) and bared some strong similarities to it. For example, both films star Vin Diesel, and both feature him doing extreme stunts in cars. So… I guess you could say it’s Fast and Furious in spy-film form, if that makes any sense. To be honest though, I really liked it. Yeah, I could probably watch it today and call it stupid, but it was… such a fun kind of stupid. Plus, Asia Argento… just… damn gorgeous.

But would it be a shock to you that there was a sequel that you’ve most likely never heard of? Yeah, XXX: STATE OF THE UNION (2005). Do you want to know the best part? It starred Ice Cube… er, pre-legit career, so you can care about as much as everyone else did when it came out, which wasn’t very much. As I understand it, Diesel wasn’t featured at all, and was unceremoniously killed off. It was panned, and effectively killed any future plans for a sequel. Not that there was much need for one. Fast and Furious became a phenomenon, so Diesel was never short on work.

OR SO WE ALL THOUGHT!!! With the Furious films coming to a supposed close with this year’s eighth installment, FATE OF THE FURIOUS (2017 – Yeah, and I bet the announced Fast 9 and 10 are just everyone’s collective imagination), I guess Diesel can’t be relying on steady work as Groot in the Guardians of the Galaxy films, or his Riddick films, which are criminally never as popular as they should be, so I guess it only makes “sense” to revisit a franchise that he only had half a hand in. And… yeah, it looks like it’s going to be a stupid-fun kind of movie, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested or planning to see it.

Let’s take a look at the cast. Diesel (BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK [2016], GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014], and the Fast and Furious franchise) obviously returns to reprise his role, so that’s a plus. But this is a nice surprise, Donnie Yen (ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY [2016], the Ip Man franchise, and BLADE II [2002]) co-stars with him. Love this man. Great actor and great martial artist. Also reprising his role from the previous installments is the man who’s everywhere, Samuel L. Jackson (MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN [2016], THE AVENGERS [2012], and DEEP BLUE SEA [1999]). Newcomers include Toni Collette (KRAMPUS [2015], ABOUT A BOY [2002], and TV show UNITED STATES OF TARA), Ruby Rose (TV show ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK), Tony Jaa (the Ong-bak franchise, FURIOUS 7 [2015], and THE PROTECTOR [2005]), and Nina Dobrev (THE FINAL GIRLS [2015], LETS BE COPS [2014], and TV show THE VAMPIRE DIARIES).

Now for behind the scenes. Directing is D.J. Caruso, known for THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM (2016), I AM NUMBER FOUR (2011), and DISTURBIA (2007). What a checkered resume there. DISTURBIA was solid, I AM NUMBER FOUR wasn’t great, and THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM was really bad. Hard to get a beat on a guy who’s inconsistent with his work. Penning the screenplay is F. Scott Frazier, known only for THE NUMBERS STATION (2013). Co-composing the music are Robert Lydecker and Brian Tyler. Lydecker is known for TV shows DESIGNATED SURVIVOR and SLEEPY HOLLOW. Tyler is known for CRIMINAL (2016), a ton of Marvel films, and many of the Fast and Furious movies. Finally, the cinematographer is Russell Carpenter, known for ANT-MAN (2015), TITANIC (1997), and, get this, T2 3-D: BATTLE ACROSS TIME (1996). Yes, this man was the cinematographer for the popular (And now disassembled – er, in Hollywood, anyway… lucky bastards in Florida and Japan don’t have their hearts ripped out…) Universal Studios theme park ride. Super!

I’m not expecting anything great. Just a dumb, fun action film. I’m betting that’s exactly what will be delivered. Can’ t wait.

This is my honest opinion of XXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE.

(SUMMARY)

Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) has been killed. The NSA believes it’s a small group of terrorists led by Xiang (Donnie Yen). NSA agent Jane Marke (Toni Collette) seeks out an old contact of Gibbons’, the infamous Xander Cage (Vin Diesel): the first xXx. Eventually tracking him down and recruiting him to hunting down Gibbons’ killer, Xander builds a team of his own and begins a high octane romp across the globe to find Xiang and his team.

(REVIEW)

Hahaha, shit, that was awesome! It was stupid as hell, but holy crap, what did the haters expect out of xXx? Movies like this have one job: be fun, look awesome. That’s exactly what I got.

So first and foremost, no, there’s no real story. Hell, this movie is so unbelievably recycled, it’s like something out of an eighties action flick. Really think about it, retired agent that’s the best of the best, gets recruited because he moves and acts like the bad guys do, hell, even the eighties are rolling their eyes at this. But… I like this cliché. Also, I appreciate movies that seem honest with both themselves and the audience. “Kick some ass, get the girl, and try to look dope while doing it,” how can you not love that?!

So let’s talk about these cardboard cut-out characters. By God, does Diesel look like he’s having fun in this role. Constantly throwing cheesy one-liners, talking shit, he’s actually pretty hilarious. What more can be said other than that? What you see is what you get. Yen is as bad-ass as he’s always been. Collette is delightfully sinister. Even Nina Dobrev has a few cute and funny moments. Every character is certainly stock and one-note, but I was honestly having too much fun watching it that I didn’t care much, if at all.

There’s no real story. Hell, it’s only been a few days (as this review is being written) since I saw it and all I remember is something that can cause mass destruction is stolen. There’s betrayal, good guys become bad guys, bad guys become good guys, it’s a complete mess of a movie, but it’s a beautiful and fun kind of mess.

Yeah, this is junk-food cinema at its finest. It’s not trying that hard, but it’s pretty honest about it. I think anyone that hates on this movie was looking for a James Bond or Jason Bourne type film, which… no, if you’ve seen the first one, it wasn’t that either. These movies are meant to be seen, enjoyed, and forgotten. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I think anyone who likes dumb and mindless action movies will get their moneys worth. As for everyone else expecting something… good? Nah, y’all might wanna skip this.

My honest rating for XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE:  4/5

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