Nick has a deep interest in film and cinema, dreaming of one day being a successful film pundit.
Let Me Simplify it For You
xXx: Return of Xander Cage is an action-adventure film which is also the third installment of the semi-popular xXx series, best described as a cross between Point Break and the Fast and Furious series. The film incidentally also stars Vin Diesel as the titular character who, of course, returns to reprise his role as the extreme sports-loving ex-secret agent, who is persuaded out of retirement when a team of enemies led by Xiang (played by Donnie Yen) steals an important device. This device causes space satellites to plummet into the earth, acting as an air-strike that can target anyone or any place desired. If that isn’t ridiculous enough, Xander recruits his own team of random misfits to join him on his new mission, as they start to uncover a darker truth behind this dangerous weapon.
Let’s face it, no one would expect much from this film (henceforth known as xXx 3). Director D.J. Caruso isn’t particularly known for being an excellent director, with directorial credits in The Disappointments Room, I am Number Four, and Eagle Eye not exactly making for a stellar CV. Vin Diesel again attempts to continue another franchise after his failed solo attempt in the Last Witch Hunter, but one can only wonder if xXx 3’s similarities with the Fast and Furious series contributed to Diesel’s enthusiasm in making it, as the Fast movies have remained to this day a fantastic example of a failing franchise gaining new breath. Can Vin Diesel replicate his Fast and Furious success? Or has that ticket long Xpired?
I walked into this film expecting to see mindless action and stuff popcorn into my face. Those willing to pay the admission fee would be wise to follow suit. xXx 3 was always destined to be a cheesy, over-the-top action film, which doesn’t quite live up to the scale of the Fast series, but does provide some good action scenes and laugh-out-loud set-pieces that leave you wondering what the scriptwriter was drinking as he wrote them in. The plot was unsurprisingly pointless, bordering on silly at points, but Vin Diesel and Donnie Yen’s fight sequences are justifiably fun to watch and serve as the main attraction even as the supporting cast’s star power is largely wasted.
Motorcycling Jet Skis
The main draw of xXx 3 (and the only thing that prevents it from being a downright terrible film) is its ludicrous but often funny vehicle-related stunts. ScreenJunkies’ Hal Rudnick puts it perfectly: we walk into this film to see a) Vin Diesel skateboarding off the side of a bus, b) Vin Diesel jumping over cars, and c) Vin Diesel jet-skiing through the ocean waves with a motorcycle. All are scenes from the trailers that give xXx 3 that extreme-sports, Hip-hop, impossible-action vibe. This ultimately shrouds the film in a layer of disposable fun that might just bring a smile to your face if that was what you were expecting. If not, then you’ll likely hate xXx 3 with a passion for wasting 107 minutes of your life.
Fun is a good and possibly overused word that will be used by fans to describe the film, and it certainly seems that the cast of xXx 3 is having loads of it. To its credit, the film never takes itself too seriously, which actually made the film more entertaining, in a ‘so bad its actually good’ kind of way (Think the Room and Mortal Kombat). Every line from every cast member is covered in a sense of awareness that they’re all in an 85 million-dollar action film, as they punch and kick their way through the entire screenplay with smiles of badassery. They can at least smile knowing that the film’s fast pace is thankfully consistent.
Try to Look Dope While You’re Doing it
From the time-wasting, CGI-ed opening credit sequence, one can already tell what kind of film xXx is going to be. Any critic worth his/her salt would point out any number of xXx 3’s many flaws. From the nonsensical plot to the often terribly-rendered CGI that unfortunately gives the film a cheap and dated feel, xXx 3 simply isn’t a good movie. Although some of its action scenes are actually on-point and at the right level of intensity, others are choppily edited such that you never really know what’s going on, an issue that is no stranger to the action movies of the past decade. The hard fistfights are also few and far between, often replaced by gunfire battles which literally takes a substantial punch out of the movie. This is a shame considering you have some of the industry’s best action-movie material including Tony Jaa, Rory McCann, and Michael Bisping, all of which are shamefully wasted with minimal screentime and cringe-worthy dialogue.
A few individuals do get given some relatively memorable roles, including Hollywood newcomer Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, and Nina Dobrev, but all this is merely a consolation to the ambitious but overall poor spectacle of a film that xXx 3 is. For those who haven’t seen the trailers, then a character is introduced towards the end of the film that serves not only to provide an on-the-nose element of intertextuality but also to spell the obvious fact that there isn’t going to be a fourth xXx movie anytime soon. For many, this particular element may seem neat, but for others, it’ll feel forced and shoehorned in.
January has never been known in the film industry for being the ideal period for releasing great films, and xXx most definitely proves it. Though it’s fun and cool to see Dominic Toretto and Ip Man fight random soldier fodder, the fact that people have to pay to sit through xXx 3 isn’t the best deal for anyone who isn’t expecting to turn their brain off and be entertained by explosions and gunfire. It’s almost poetic that Paramount Pictures named the film Return of Xander Cage, as unless the film is a box-office hit this weekend, Mr. Cage will never return to the screen again.
Overall Score: 5.6/10