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Review: xXx: Return Of Xander Cage

xXx: Return Of Xander Cage
Director    DJ Caruso
Starring    Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Nina Dobrev, Ruby Rose, Kris Wu, Tony Jaa, Samuel L Jackson
Release    20 JAN (US) 19 JAN (UK)    Certificate 12A

Rating:


One of my New Year's Resolutions for 2017 was to watch more movies I wouldn't normally watch, with the intent of broadening my cinematic horizons. Little did I know, the first invite to plop into my inbox would be for xXx: Return Of Xander Cage, an action movie so extreme that it doesn't even have the time to include the definitive article in its title. I have never walked out of a movie, but the closest I've ever come is during the first xXx in 2002, around about the time Vin Diesel's buff Generation X-er snowboarded down an avalanche on a tea tray. I assumed that in his absence, Cage had been hitting the books, ready to return older, wiser and woke. But then the movie opened with xXx jumping off a TV transmitter and skiing through a jungle, so I guess I'll be putting off the broadening of my cinematic horizons until another day.
I am confused by many things that aren't meant for my age group (PewDiePie, Snapchat, any music released after 1997) but I am extra special confused about xXx 3, because it's definitely not for adults and it's definitely not for the teenagers of 2017. It's a safe assumption that today's youth are not likely to attribute icon status to a 49-year-old man, roughly the size and stockiness of a Portaloo, wearing three-quarter-length trousers that show off his Dungeons & Dragons tattoos, who lists 'extreme boogie-boarding' in his interests. xXx: Return Of Xander Cage is very much an old person's idea of what they think young people want to watch.

It's not that this film is stupid (it is) or misogynistic (oh God is it), it's just so horrendously out of step with everything it's aiming for: it's too choppily edited to quality as a proper martial arts movie, despite the welcome presence of Donnie Yen; as a spy movie it's laughable due to xXx's inability to blend into anything except Beefcake Conventions; even as a celebration of youth and virility, it comes across as pervy and weird and desperate to please. Every single female character in the film makes no bones about the fact they want to get X-rated with xXx, and Diesel has such an air of unbearable smugness throughout, grinning inanely as sex workers pin him down for a random orgy, that you don't even root for him as a hero.

Here are some other stray observations about xXx: Return Of Xander Cage that I noted when my eyes hadn't rolled to the back of my skull:

- Every single cast member and extra is impossibly good-looking. This is extremely disconcerting after a while, like The Stepford Wives made an action movie.

- One of the punchlines is "That's what she said". Not an ironic reappropriation of "That's what she said". An actual "That's what she said" joke.

- One action sequence turns from night to day in the space of about 30 seconds and ends with Diesel chasing Donnie Yen on motorbikes that also turn out to be surfboards and they drive out into the sea for some reason.

In all seriousness, this isn't even a scene from the film


- The screenplay spends longer on setting up a joke about xXx's fur coat than it does explaining how a major character survives getting shot in the stomach and thrown out a plane.

- The fur coat, by the way, is absolutely fucking ridiculous. It has attained almost Lenny Kravitz-esque mass in the interim. Toni Collette's character does make a good joke about it, saying no one would want to steal it, "although I wouldn't be surprised if it got up and walked off by itself."

- There is one actual great gag in the film, where Collette's handler tries and fails to instil a sense of authority into xXx's ragtag crew of risk-takers and rule-breakers. Nina Dobrev, playing the impossibly good-looking tech support girl, sidles up to Collette and says: "Apart from that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?" I think we can all agree that, although this is A Good Joke, it will be lost on 99% of the intended audience and most probably the majority of the cast members too.

- Tony Jaa has a bleached mohawk and appears to be channelling Sasha Baron Cohen's character Bruno.

- There is a full screen shot of Vin Diesel's nipple. And when I say full screen, I mean full screen. Like, the whole of the screen. In 3D.

- One of Xander Cage's crew has the secret agent power of being a DJ, making him able to successfully DJ any parties they may or may not attend in the line of duty.

- We discovered in Fast & Furious 7 that Vin Diesel attended his own wedding wearing a sleeveless vest and it's confirmed here that he also considers it to be suitable attire for a funeral.

This is from the film, but could easily also be a red carpet photo from the premiere.


Sometimes I feel like that sarcastic teen in the crowd at Lollapalooza in The Simpsons: I don't even know if I'm having fun any more. Is xXx: Return Of Xander Cage entertaining? I want to say no, because all of the characters are terrible, the dialogue is toilet, the plot is garbage and the relentless gunplay is tiresome in the extreme (just about the only thing in the movie that is extreme). But also, I have a pile of awards season screeners at home containing very important and challenging films about big issues, and I still chose to go and see this? So... yes? Maybe? Oh God, I don't know, leave me alone.



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