xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

There are no more patriots, just rebels and tyrants.

Extreme athlete turned government operative Xander Cage comes out of self-imposed exile, thought to be long dead, and is set on a collision course with deadly alpha warrior Xiang and his team in a race to recover a sinister and seemingly unstoppable weapon known as Pandora's Box. Recruiting an all-new group of thrill-seeking cohorts, Xander finds himself enmeshed in a deadly conspiracy that points to collusion at the highest levels of world governments.

Words cannot express how incredibly overwrought, insipid, hyperactive and foolishly exaggerated the third entry into the action-packed _XXX_ film franchise is in the nonsensical and numbing operative spectacle **XXX: Return of Xander Cage**. Monosyllabic muscle-bound action star Vin Diesel revisits the rollicking and roguish skin of athletic spy/sports enthusiast Xander Cage in yet another splashy yet sophomoric throbbing thrill-ride that only diehard Diesel fanboys will swallow with unapologetic fervor.
When in doubt Diesel knows where his bread is buttered in terms of his secured box office appeal. The pumped-up performer has initiated the hoopla with a couple of popular action flicks in the past only to leave them briefly before deciding to return front and center. Diesel has done this tactic with the inexplicably desired _The Fast and the Furious_ movie series as well as the aforementioned _XXX_ offerings (actor/singers Tyrese Gibson and Ice Cube inherited the big screen honors in replacing the absent Diesel in these energized ditties respectively). Now Diesel is called into service once again to capitalize on the extreme spy genre while satisfying those thrill-seekers whose thirst for the James Bond and Jason Bourne action-grabbers may be perceived as relentlessly mild as the acrobatic antics of the hip Bald Bold One looks to overshadow his competitors in daunting dumbness.
Bottom line: who the heck was cramming for the ridiculous return of the attention-getting Xander Cage other than the motivated machismo of star/co-producer Diesel strutting his all-too-familiar slick shtick in an empty-minded vanity project that is jumpier than a kangaroo with the hiccups? There is nothing like playing to the convoluted escapism and exploiting the loyal demographics that continue to get a charge out of Diesel’s boisterous brand from the _Fast and Furious_ enterprise that still sizzles for some and fizzles for others. Nevertheless, this espionage eyesore features Diesel’s Cage at his best…and that is not saying much. He is as smooth as ice soothing your ailing tonsils. Check. He is a chick magnet to the highest degree. Check again. He can turn his biceps and brawn into an invaluable weapon for the safety of his country and comrades. Double check and then some. Overall, we get it…Xander Cage is a badass without boundaries and daredevil Diesel and his on-screen cohorts wants to reinforce such titillating tripe. Go figure.
Granted that **XXX: Return of Xander Cage’s** sole purpose is to play into the pulsating popcorn pleasure of its audience while expecting one not to take the excitable escapades too seriously. Still, the tired formula for this particular genre in general (not to mention a Vin Diesel-starring vehicle) feels utterly uninspired and recycled despite the ambitious showcasing of active triggers that include high-wire skiing through the woods, dirt bike surfing, daring skateboarding prowess while clinging to the side of a moving bus and oh yeah…a lot of colorful butt-kicking tactics to boot. The highly stylized lifestyle of the free-wheeling Cage is by-the-numbers hedonism–cause havoc, conquer the lovely ladies hormonal for his suave affections and come off looking cool this side of 70’s knockoff bad motherf&%$# private eye John Shaft in taking care of business. Great spy work if you can conjure it up for indiscriminate action junkies wanting to engage in this souped-up silliness without rhyme or reason.
For those not quite familiar with the Xander Cage “mythology” he was an extreme sports talent that had been recruited by NSA head honcho Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to utilize his competitive skills and abilities undercover. Now Cage is back in the saddle as he horses around on yet another challenging assignment that finds him butting heads with a trio of baddies in Deepika Padukone’s Serena, Donnie Yen’s Xiang and Tony Jaa’s Talon–a threatening threesome experimenting with dangerously rigging outer space satellites or something to that trivial effect. Of course the crafty Cage–beyond wily and reckless–is often reigned in by the likes of his superiors including Agent Jane Marke (Oscar and Emmy nominated Australian actress Toni Collette needlessly toiling away in this toothless contraption of a spy thriller).
Director D.J. Caruso (2016’s “The Disappointments Room”) merely goes through the motions with this disjointed spy caper that flexes its moronic muscles without offering much else to the preposterous proceedings. The displayed dialogue in a Lucky Charms cereal commercial has more credibility than the words leaving the lips of the featured players in this woefully generic actioner. Diesel, who has shown some promise as an actor in previous critical fare from yesteryear such as 2000’s _Boiler Room_ and 2006’s _Find Me Guilty_ has since played it safe and relied on the frivolous “sure thing” with the repetitive Furious installments and other fluffy movie projects that had diminished his potential in Hollywood beyond the brainless blow-em-up cinema that he finds automatic comfort in churning out as a cinematic safety net.
Although they say that a single “X” usually marks the spot it takes triple X’s to disprove this theory when welcoming back the chaotic coolness that is Diesel’s detached dude in cocky-minded Xander Cage–the sensationalized showboat that should have left his debuted one-dimensional adventurous tendencies back in 2002.
**XXX: Return of Xander Cage** (2017)
(c) **Frank Ochieng** (2017)

Rox Productions, Revolution Studios, Maple Cage Productions, Huahua Media, RK films, Shanghai Film Group, One Race by D.J. Caruso, Rich Wilkes, F. Scott Frazier.
Stars: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu.

Genres: Action, Adventure, Thriller

Keywords: tattoo spy extreme sports airplane secret agent parachute swimming pool sequel back from the dead dominican republic free fall

01/13/2017

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