‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’ is for thrill seekers

0

For those who find the “Fast and Furious” series too intellectually stimulating, Vin Diesel (producer and star) returns to the “xXx” series. There’s not much of a plot, but there is an answer to the proverbial question, “What if you put a hundred monkeys in a room full of typewriters?” Fortunately, audiences don’t watch Vin Diesel for the story, or the acting.

This action-thriller is a rude, crude and preposterous spectacle, but Diesel makes it exciting popcorn entertainment. The target audience is primarily adrenaline junkies who enjoy X games and similar extreme action programming. The international cast consists mostly of unknowns chosen more for athletic ability than theatrical talent.

The premise is that some villains can’t be located or captured by “James Bond tuxedo types” or even the Navy Seal “best of the best with honors” group. They are ill prepared to deal with today’s scoundrels. Only friends in low places can make that happen. That’s where Xander Cage (Diesel) comes in. BTW, he died earlier in the series, whaaat?

Samuel L. Jackson, as Augustus Gibbons, assumes his requisite role, albeit only briefly, of the omnipresent, sarcastic boss-man. Interviewing a new recruit, Gibbons states, “The fight was between liberty and freedom, and we lost them both.” Unbeknownst to either, a satellite is falling out of the sky on a direct path to their apparent death.

CIA Officer Jane Marke (Toni Collette) locates the “deceased” Xander Cage (Diesel) in a small Dominican village and convinces him it’s his patriotic duty to return to action. Xander responds, “There are no more patriots, just rebels and tyrants.” Jane asks which is he? Xander declares, “I am xXx!” Better than “I am Groot!” He selects the dirtiest dozen ever. Who needs highly skilled experts when you have the best D.J. ever and a stumbling, mumbling driver that can crash his shabby car through an ATM machine?

Each team member is filled with tattoos and more sordid than the next, but that’s the apparent appeal. They are outlandish and outrageous but cool in their own way. They are so undisciplined and ill mannered, the only other profession they could possibly qualify for would be political office. Fortunately, they have that big galoot, Xander Cage.

Each scene is basically a set up for the next gnarly (and cartoonish) action sequence involving high speed skateboards, skiing through a jungle, fights on top of trucks barreling down the freeway, scuffles on an out of control airplane, free falling without a parachute, motorcycle chases and cycles that morph into watercraft.

We’ve seen some of these wild scenes before, and possibly done better, but not quite so many absurdities in the same feature. Worse yet, it is sometimes difficult to sift through the accents of the international cast. However, notable performers are Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen, who is superb, and appealing Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone.

It seems the objective is to retrieve the ominous “Pandora’s Box” that can unlock military encryption and computing systems. It’s curious how at the drop of a hat, friends become enemies and enemies become friends. It all comes together in an odd way, but as they travel from London, to Detroit, to the Philippines, they wonder if it could all lead to a deadly conspiracy of collusion at the highest levels of government. Okay, it eventually stretches the limits of credulity for even the most ardent enthusiast.

“xXx: Return of Xander Cage” is 107 minutes and rated PG-13 for gunplay, violent action, sexual material and language. This rambling action piece is mindless, but as it’s jacked up on Red Bull and Mountain Dew, it keeps your attention. These misfits are the evil twins of the X-Men, but for some in the audience, it satisfies a guilty pleasure.

This is the third in the series, but for some reason, Diesel skipped the second entry of this one, as he did in “The Fast and the Furious” series. “Why xXx?” Gibbons (Jackson) answers, “Because he’s the rebel that the world doesn’t know it needs!” Uh, okay. Gibbons then simplifies it for xXx, “Kick some @$$, get the girl, and try to look dope while doing it.” Yeah, sounds a lot like today’s politics.

Share.

About Author

Ron & Leigh Martel