Review: xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

xxx return of xander cage

Assassin’s Creed is a big dumb action film (BDAF) and it totally worked for me. The BDAF’s success lies on a trapeze artist wire, since it has nothing more to go on than whether I am having fun or not. Assassin’s Creed made me feel immersed in its world and respectful of everything it was trying to achieve.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage is not fun. It is the male shaving razor advert of films. It is The Avengers for jocks too self conscious to be seen in the same cinema as a spotty bespectacled boy wearing a Captain America t-shirt. It is that horrid waft of Lynx deodorant whenever a squad of teenage boys walk past. It is hyper-macho to the extent it was a surprise Vin Diesel did not kill a few bad guy goons with his presumably 50ft long penis.

It feels wrong to rain on the parade of a film looking to have a good time, especially because the kid beside me in the cinema was genuinely buying into the tension of certain perilous scenes. Its 12A rating makes it sound more edgy than it actually is – a couple of swear words, a few rude gestures, lame innuendo, and A-Team style violence make for a tame modern action film.

Vin Diesel – the God of BDAFs – seems to be having the time of his life. He charmingly smiles his way through an endless sea of explosions and women twenty years younger than him. Diesel is typically the cool alpha male dude anyway, but this really ramps it up to egotistical levels of masturbatory self-love. Samuel L Jackson chews the scenery as only he can in a role almost identical to his Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite not a lot of screen time, he makes the most of giving the film what it lacks – attitude and fun.

Toni Collette is wildly miscast as CIA agent Jane, looking not so much stoic but genuinely bored, and seems to only ever refer to other people as assholes. The first time felt like a cliché hardass American agent trope, but by the end of the film it was noticeably her only choice of word for another person.

There are some positives. Hollywood’s goal to make even more money out of the global box office by paying lip service to China continues here, but at least makes for a diverse and talented cast. Donnie Yen in particular is bloody great, wholly committed to the ambiguous path his character is on with some of the most stylish action moves in the business. Rory McCann seems to be enjoying himself as well, embracing his Scottishness as a complete lunatic who lives for the thrill of crashing into things. His cheekiness, as well as an oddly niche joke about the Lockerbie airplane disaster, make him stand out as a little less conventional than the rest of the bunch.

It is so boringly polished, everyone is so patronisingly beautiful, the story is so first-draft James Bond that money is best saved on a cinema ticket for the next entry in The Fast & The Furious series. At least in those films everything is impressively polished, diversely beautiful, and embraces the BDAF premise by turning the stakes up to eleven. xXx: Return of Xander Cage is a limp boy-fantasy, a relic of when we did not know any better, a snoozefest with characters, a soundtrack, and a plot so generic that you have to wonder if anyone even really cared what Xander Cage had been up to for the last decade anyway. If the answer is in going to see this, it is not satisfying.

1.5/5

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