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Review – xXx: The Return of Xander Cage


FILM REVIEWXXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGEWith Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Toni Collette, Samuel L. Jackson. Written by Rich Wilkes. Directed by D.J. Caruso. Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of gunplay and violent action, and for sexual material and language. 107 minutes.

xxx-roxg-chrpost-gallery-11Taking a page from the “Fast and Furious” series, which started out lackluster and then took off in the later entries, XXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE jumpstarts the franchise and gives it new life. Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) was recruited into a secret government program in the 2002 original film, but supposedly died. His handler, Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), recruited a replacement–played by Ice Cube–in the 2005 sequel.. and there the series ended. Now with the investment of the Chinese film industry–and the inclusion of Asian stars like Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Deepika Padukone, and Kris Wu–Cage is back. Diesel, who is in the “Fast and Furious” films as well, seems to have brought the lessons of that series with him.

It’s a complicated plot that makes sense when you watcfh it but only slowly reveals itself. Suffice to say, the U.S. government tracks down Cage, who been living in hiding, in order to get him to recover something called “Pandora’s Box.” It is a device that gives its operator control over the thousands of satellites in orbit around the globe, and to turn them into weapons. His new handler Jane Marke (Toni Collette, in a very different role for her), tells him it has been stolen and they need to recover it.

What follows are a series of outrageous action scenes that include a chase on top of moving vehicles, shootouts in a plane in freefall, and a lot of martial arts choreography. As motives are revealed, players change sides, a techie (Nina Dobrev) who insists she’s not a field agent has to improvise with an automatic weapon, and Diesel gets off some one-liners. The movie has a cheeky sense of humor, as when we get a reference to another Samuel L. Jackson role by hearing that someone whom he wanted for the xXx team thought he was being recruited for the Avengers. It’s a movie that refuses to take itself seriously even while it’s rushing forward towards a finale of special effects and incredible stuntwork.

And, for action fans, that makes it fun. It’s a roller coaster ride where you’re there for the thrills, not character development or plot nuance. Beside the creative action sequences, the other lesson from the “Fast and Furious” films seems to be the international and multi-ethnic cast. One one level it’s a matter of economics. Some of the names that may not be well known to American audiencs are big stars in other parts of the world. Yet it’s also sending a message of diversity and cooperation across groups and borders that’s sorely needed in these times.

Diesel knows from experience that a strong ensemble cast makes all its participants look good, which may be why he agreed to return to a fifteen year old role for a second outing. The door is wide open at the end of “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage” for additional films. Prior to this that would have sounded more like a threat than a promise. Now there are some real possibilities.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His new novel, Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel, will be released in next month. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

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About Daniel M. Kimmel

Film critic, author, lecturer.

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