By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
Action badass, Vin Diesel (Fast & Furious franchise, Riddick trilogy, Guardians of the Galaxy) is back as athletic secret agent, Xander Cage in the third installment of the XXX film trilogy. XXX: Return of Xander Cage marks the first XXX movie in over ten years as well as the first film from Revolution Studios since The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep in 2007.
The first XXX movie, released in 2002, and directed by Fast & the Furious director, Rob Cohen, was one of the many films I love watching when seeking dumb popcorn entertainment. I loved it when I was younger and I still enjoy it to this day, it isn’t a perfect film in any way but it delivered crazy action sequences, cheesy one-liners, and it helped make Diesel a likable action star.
Upon release, the reception for the first movie was very mixed and was even nominated for a Razzie award, and honestly I don’t get it. I’m not defending it as a great movie but it’s an enjoyable film to turn your brain off too, I guess critics at the time were expecting something on par with the Bond or Bourne films, which is fitting because The Bourne Identity and the final James Bond movie with Pierce Brosnan, Die Another Day came out the exact same year the first XXX movie did.
The good news is the mixed reception didn’t stop the movie from getting a sequel, the bad news is it was XXX: State of the Union. Released in 2005 and Vin Diesel and Rob Cohen were replaced by Ice Cube and Lee Tamahori, due to Diesel passing on reprising the role to star in that piece of family-friendly bullshit, The Pacifier and Cohen directing the disastrous, Stealth, and guess what? State of the Union flopped…for good %^ing reasons.
Twelve years later, Diesel dons the fur coat once again in XXX: Return of Xander Cage and in the director’s chair is D.J. Caruso (The Salton Sea, Disturbia, I Am Number Four), and it delivers exactly what the title promises. The film fixed my #1 problem with State of the Union, I’m serious, Sony should wake up tomorrow morning and see how Paramount succeeded in what they failed at, track down all the XXX: State of the Union DVDs in the world, and destroy them.
The film follows extreme athlete turned government agent, Xander Cage (Diesel), thought to be long dead, coming out of self-imposed exile and is recruited by the CIA to obtain a powerful weapon known as Pandora’s Box, that can manipulate military satellites and pretty much transform them into giant nukes of destruction before a super-terrorist named Xiang (Donnie Yen-Once Upon a Time in China II, Iron Monkey, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) can use it. Xander puts together a team of thrill-seeking cohorts and they go through with the mission, but he soon finds himself in a conspiracy of corruption among world governments including insiders of his own country.
The film also stars Deepika Padukone (Cocktail, Chennai Express, Finding Fanny) as Serena Unger, Kris Wu (Somewhere Only We Know, Journey to the West 2, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) as Harvard “Nicks” Zhou, Ruby Rose (Orange is the New Black, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, John Wick: Chapter 2) as Adele Wolf, Tony Jaa (Ong Bak trilogy, Skin Trade, Furious 7) as Talon, Nina Dobrev (Away from Her, Chloe, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as Rebecca “Becky” Clearidge, Samuel L. Jackson (Jurassic Park, Pulp Fiction, Marvel Cinematic Universe) reprising his role from the first two films as NSA Agent Augustus Eugene Gibbons, Toni Collette (About a Boy, Little Miss Sunshine, Krampus) as Jane Marke, singer, Nicky Jam as Lazarus, Rory McCann (Hot Fuzz, Clash of the Titans, Game of Thrones) as Tennyson “The Torch”, Michael Bisping (Plastic, Strike Back) as Hawk, newcomer, Ariadna Gutiérrez as Gina Rolf, Hermione Corfield (Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation, Mr. Holmes, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Ainsley, former NFL player, Tony Gonzalez as Paul Donovan, and Ice Cube (Boyz N The Hood, Friday trilogy, 21 Jump Street) reprises his role from XXX: State of the Union as Darius Stone.
Overall, XXX: Return of Xander Cage is a satisfying return to the XXX franchise, though it probably won’t win over any new viewers. If you’re looking for something intelligent or challenge your mind, you will probably have a miserable time with this movie because this film is stupid, but it’s the right kind of stupid.
It’s on the same level of dumb films like Independence Day or the first Transformers movie, where its stupidity leads to great entertainment and you can let it pass as fun. Undeniably flawed and doesn’t do much new with its genre, but if you love watching extreme stunts, things blowing up, and lots of one-liners, you’ll have a lot of fun here.
The movie gets ridiculous very quickly, characters do a lot of implausible things during action scenes, a character using mechanical fists to fight, motorcycles with built in jet skis, and blowing up a plane by flying it into a falling satellite. XXX is officially a superhero franchise, literally right down to making an obvious reference to a certain franchise when Samuel L. Jackson is recruiting a new XXX agent.
This is how you follow-up XXX correctly and thanks to this movie I am down to see a XXX 4 sometime in the future. Return of Xander Cage is fun, State of the Union is anything but, and it delivers (so far) the best quote I’ve heard all year, Rock, Paper, Scissors, Grenade Launcher, well played XXX.