xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage – Review


“xXx: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE”

Yes, who saw this one coming in the distance. For those of you who are unaware or didn’t grow up in the late 90’s, there was a rivalry going on in the cinema’s when James Bond film, Die Another Day was announced, it was placed in direct competition with another spy thriller that was attempting to prove how outdated and past it James Bond really was, this film was called xXx. It starred Vin Diesel and would be a film that would bring James Bond into the 21st century, this was going to be the new cool guy. It would have everything that made James Bond cool, but it would merge it with the extreme sports craze that was going on at the time, thanks to the popularity of Tony Hawk, MTV and WWE, or at least, how WWE was at the time. The thing is, though, while it was a financial success it wasn’t exactly a critical success. The critics successfully noted that it was more a marketing campaign than a film, highlighted by the fact that there were posters advertising the film before the script was even completed. Nevertheless, looking back now, all things considered, it’s not that bad a film, it’s just horribly dated. The original xXx is really a relic of the 90’s, even the cameos of extreme sports stars feel rather weird and out of place since Tony Hawk is the only one that is still well known today and of course Rammstein are still well known, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s not technically a good film. I would admit that I don’t hate it altogether, I kind of consider it a bit of a guilty pleasure, especially for the opening sequence at the Rammstein concert. The film’s franchise failed to continue with the original director and Vin Diesel leaving the project when the sequel came around, so they may an even more inferior film, starring Ice Cube, which failed to take off and everyone just assumed that the franchise was dead.

Cut to 2017 and we now have a new film, that I don’t think anyone asked for. I took my friend Simon along to see the film and he wasn’t even aware the film was coming out or had been in development. This suggests the studio have meant to keep the film quiet, though not in the same way that the Blair Witch marketing was used. While original stars Vin Diesel and Samuel L Jackson are returning to the film, there is a new director in place, D J Caruso who has not directed anything of real note, with the exception of the horrificly bland film, I Am Number 4, which, if you asked me tomorrow, I couldn’t tell you what happened in that film because I barely remember anything about it. Needless to say, I wasn’t going into the 3rd xXx movie with high expectations. But, everything is worth a shot, so how does a really late return of Xander Cage turn out?

xXx’s plot revolves around the rogue xXx agent, named Xiang, (played by Donnie Yen) leading a team of other former xXx agents to capture a device called Pandora’s Box, which can take over any satellite and force any of them out of orbit, to cause massive devastation. Agent Jane Marke, (played by Toni Collette) tracks down Xander Cage, (played by Vin Diesel) in order to rejoin the programme and take down the organisation with his own team of former xXx agents. There’s really not much to the plot, other than than and if you are wondering why I have left Samuel L Jackson out of the plot, he’s basically a cameo. He is barely in the movie despite his advertisement of being largely in the film. That’s not xXx’s biggest problem though. The thing that makes the original xXx a guilty pleasure, is the fact that it is a time capsule of everything that was popular in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. This will be a time capsule of everything that is wrong with action films of this decade.

The original film was borrowing quite heavily from the James Bond films, but adding an extreme sports twist to it, but the Bond films have clearly not been too much of an influence on this film. Probably, largely, due to the fact that the Bond films have changed so much. Since the original film came out, the Bond films have changed direction so drastically. As a result, the film borrows influences from other films like, the Resident Evil movies and particularly the Fast and Furious films. In fact the whole thing feels like another Fast and Furious sequel, not helped by the fact that Vin Diesel is once again in the lead role and it has everything that I didn’t like about the Fast and Furious films. The plot is asinine as hell. There is no care taken with it whatsoever and the script is horrendous. It’s like dialogue that a 12 year old would write. The characters are abysmal. Xander Cage has no personality this time around and he is interchangeable with Vin Diesel’s character in Fast and Furious, you easily mistake the two. There is also the matter of the rampant sexism. Seriously, with the exception of Toni Collette, every single woman in this film is basically reduced to being ‘walking sex’ and it really bothers me. The cinematography around the women means that it’s incredibly juvenile. The side characters also don’t have much personality, they try and put a ton of them in here and try to give them, “distinct personalities” in the hopes that they can build sequels and spin-offs with these characters. The problem is, we don’t know enough about them to care if we see any more future films, and it only gets worse from here. The plot is incredibly atrocious in the fact that it never sticks with a villain. We start off with Donnie Yen’s character, then we have about 2 plot twists in quick succession that completely shift the focus away from him and his group, and as a result, we never have a grip on what’s going on.

xXx also has some of the worst pacing of any film I have seen in recent memory. It’s shockingly bad in parts, not to mention the film sets us a massive scene, that in any other film would have been the climax of the movie, but in this, it immediately then moves on to a second one, with very little break between them, as a result, there is no chance for you to catch your breath and take anything in, which further compounds the pacing issues I mentioned before. It only gets worse from there. By the end of the film, it feels like very little to nothing has been accomplished. The film sets up future instalments, but I think, rather like the last two films, this will bomb at the Box Office and will likely not make enough back for the sequels. The early portions of the film seem to recycle plot elements from the first film rather well. Xander Cage’s introduction is almost identical to his introduction in the first film, despite the ‘bullshit’ physics, and I will get into that later on down the line. We also get a re-creation of whole fake set up to see if he is worthy of being in the xXx programme again, with the whole “how did you figure out they were all actors”. Everything about the film’s plot really, annoyed me and if you insist on seeing it don’t check the IMDB page, they actually give away a surprise appearance in the film, which rather like many of the characters, made no sense. His placement in the film was so poor because the actor gave a terrible performance, that gave off the impression that he did not give a sh..

The performances are just all terrible. Vin Diesel is doing a decent job, but he is just basically playing himself and it seems like he is just doing this to wear off the time until he gets to be in the Fast and Furious films again, we’ll see how that pans out in a few month’s time. I have already mentioned about Samuel L Jackson, so I won’t give further detail on him since he is not in the film long enough to give an impression of his performance. Toni Collette, isn’t doing an amazing job this time around either. I will say, though, at least it’s a very diverse cast with actors like Donnie Yen, Kris Wu and Tony Jaa being put in their roles and they do their job fine, along with Ruby Rose and Deepika Padukone and of course the team is filled out with Nina Dobrev and Michael Bisping, they are alright, but their script is terrible, so they only have to play these stereotyped characters, it’s not that difficult to do, overall, I just did not care for the cast.

Now let’s talk about the action scenes. How do I put this, they are HORRENDOUS. Not only, like the first film, do they have the whole F U physics policy of how it works, but they are all shot horrendously with so many quick cuts. I really, can’t tell what is happening half the time and the CGI that has been added in is just atrocious. This is some of the worst CGI I have seen in a long time, bar none. It meant that the whole film was unappealing to watch. Not to mention that they do that whole Resident Evil slow down effect, which I absolutely can’t stand, which was once used, to amazing effect in the Matrix films has now been reduced to this, a crutch for action directors, so they don’t have to admit that they have no idea how to shoot an action scene with good clear cuts! I saw the film in 2D, frankly I don’t see the point of seeing this film in 3D since, with a few exceptions, it didn’t seem like the film was made to be seen in that format and I don’t think it would improve any of the action sequences, so stick to the 2D version.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, was everything I expected it to be, it’s a terrible waste of time with characters that I didn’t like, a plot that was all over the place and unfocused, terrible dialogue, terrible performances and some terrible action scenes that were shot appallingly. It’s an absolutely terrible film and it shows just how poisonous an effect Michael Bay’s movies and the Fast and Furious films have had on Hollywood as a whole. There is a reason it has come out in January, if it had come out any later it would have been outcompeted by Marvel, every step of the way. Thy could have done an interesting challenge to the current gritty nature of the Bond Films and the original xXx was a challenge to the Bond films. The problem is, Kingsman already did that 2 years ago and it did it so well, so as a result, it had no choice but to make another Fast and Furious film and I didn’t even really like those films to begin with.

Skip The Return of Xander Cage. It’s not that good a film.
Right, mini review time, I have a couple to do this week, one is a film that will almost have received some Oscar nominations by now, La La Land and a film that I saw at the London Film Festive, which has now received it’s general release so I can finally talk about it, Lion. So, here goes:

La La Land: La La Land is the new film from Damien Chazelle, who previously directed Whiplash, and this film is much better than I was expecting it to be. It’s a modern take on a classic musical, like Singing in the Rain, and on that sense, I was expecting it to be pretentious. But, you know what, it’s a pretty well written and well acted film. The songs are half decent, the choreography is pretty dam good and my god, the cinematography and the production design are fantastic. If this film is not up for Best Cinematography, it will be a real disservice. Even in its weaker moments, and this film does have a couple of weaker moments, it does feel like a real love and passion has been put into the project and it really shines through. I would give La La Land a chance, even if you’re not a bit fan of musicals. I actually saw this with a friend of mine who is not into musicals but he came out having actually enjoyed it and I think it will have a lot more universal appeal than people would expect.

Lion: Lion is a film that I have wanted to talk about since seeing it at the London Film Festival back in October. The best way to describe it is that it’s an extraordinary true story of a lost child in India, who, after being adopted by Australian parents, yearns to learn where he came from. He remembers that he fell asleep on a train after being separated from his brother, however, the place where he came from doesn’t exist, according to everyone who he talks to and he searches heavily to find his way home. My description hasn’t really done the story justice, but I didn’t want to go into too much detail since I think it’s best to go in an experience it yourself. The film has an extraordinary first half which feels really organic and really gives the story what it deserves. The second half doesn’t quite match up to that and becomes very ‘Oscar baity’ for a lack of a better term. It does feel like Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman are aiming for those Oscar nominations. They are very good performances and I wouldn’t object to them getting an Oscar nomination, but you know those performances, where you can feel it’s the award season. It’s a very good story and if you don’t want to see the film or the trailer doesn’t appeal to you I would recommend picking up the book, written by the actual person who the film is based on which tells of his story, however, I will not give away the title for this book, since just looking up the title, actually gives away the films ending. I liked Lion, but I think it could have been better. I would say give it a chance, I suspect I am being just a bit too critical of it.

Well, that’s it for me this week and even for next week as well, since I am doing my traditional trip to America, this time of year, however, I will be back with another review in 2 weeks. So, come back on 10 February where I will be giving my thoughts on Illumination Pictures latest Animated feature film Sing.

Thanks a lot for reading my review. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it and thank god there is a new Kingsman film this year.

Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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2nd May 2018
at 12:30 pm
The Next Axia ASDis 25th April 2018
12:00 pm to 2:00 pm

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