xXx: Return Of Xander Cage (2017) Review

xxx-return-of-xander-cageWe may be marking the return of Xander Cage, but did anyone really notice he was away? 2002’s “xXx” was a dumb but fun extreme action adventure, a 90’s ‘attitude’ hangover given a last millennial hurrah. Cage never felt as iconic as the film believed him to be, hence his easy replacement by Ice T’s Darius Stone in 2005’s “xXx2: The Next Level”. But he clearly means something to Vin Diesel who, with his rejuvenated “Fast And Furious” clout behind him, muscled his way into the producer’s chair to resurrect the franchise some 11 years later.

When NSA Agent Gibbons (Samuel L Jackson) is killed by a satellite toppling weapon which has been stolen a team of extreme action agents, CIA Chief Jane Marke (Toni Collette) brings a reluctant Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) out of retirement to retrieve the weapon before it falls into the wrong hands. But why do the enemy agents have xXx training? And who is really after the weapon?

Directed in frenetic fashion by D J Caruso (hey D J, spin that camera), “xXx: Return Of Xander Cage” is a hot mess the likes of which I thought we’d never see again after “Suicide Squad”. In common with that creative misfire, the return of Xander Cage is accompanied by the assembling of a motley and morally suspect crew of skilled ne’er-do-wells who are manipulated into teaming up to solve one problem only to discover a worse one in the dumbest, most convoluted, most mindlessly violent way possible .

There’s a distastefully misogynistic streak running through the film, most of it in support of a concerted effort to flatter Cage’s (or possibly Diesel’s) ego. There’s a definite effort to put a diverse and talented cast at the forefront of the action but some of the line readings are so terrible the only explanation is a script learned phonetically and a production that didn’t think performance was important as long as things go boom a lot. Not everything is so over-caffeinated and under-rehearsed though. Toni Collette, for example, seems to be under heavy sedation for the duration of the action, possibly for her pain relief but certainly not ours.

Nonsensically plotted, lazily structured and featuring some of the worst CGI action since “Die Another Day”, the only return Xander Cage warrants is one for a full refund. Keep your ticket stub, you’ll need it.

3/10 Score 3

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