XXX: Return Of Xander Cage

Starring: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Toni Collette, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, Tony Jaa, Kris Wu, Rory McCann, Samuel L Jackson, Ice Cube
Directed By: DJ Caruso

Plot: Xander Cage (Diesel) is brought back into the fray to stop a group of would-be terrorists with a device known as Pandora’s Box that has the ability to bring satellites down, causing them to crash into specific targets.

What Works: It’s good to have Diesel back in this role, and in this franchise. I actually liked the first XXX. I thought it was a ton of fun. I did not like the sequel, I thought it was shoddy and had no purpose. It’s like they didn’t realize the whole reason the first film was successful was because of Diesel, and you can’t just replace him with Ice Cube. This film makes good on its promise to show you a lot of action, and a lot of wild stunts. This film doubles down on the formula that worked so well for the Fast and Furious franchise by adding a ton of new faces. XXX ends up recruiting a new team (Rose, Wu, McCann), is provided with a new tech expert (Dobrev), and possibly makes even more friends along the way. So, if there was to be a fourth XXX movie, it would look a lot like the Fast and Furious franchise. In general, I enjoyed the new faces. Most of them. Honestly, I can’t say this is a smart movie, or necessarily a good film. However, it makes up for a lot of its misgivings by being extremely fun, well-paced, and the kind of turn-your-mind-off fun that action films used to be. This film doesn’t overthink anything, and it barely holds itself together, but it does so with a ton of style, flash, and charisma, and I’d still recommend this if you’re a fan of the XXX movies, or you like mindless action films.

What Doesn’t Work: Fuck this plot is terrible. I mean, just holy shit. This was the best script they could come up with to bring back Xander Cage? There’s a device called Pandora’s Box, because that hasn’t already been used a thousand times before, which is even more infuriating because the device doesn’t do anything that the actual Pandora’s Box would have suggested. Eye In The Sky or something like that would have been more appropriate. The film also likes to play this game of “who’s the bad guy?” by pushing blame around like a game of hot potato (which by the way, happens in this film). The ending is predictable. I saw that twist coming a mile away. The action sequences are on heavy edit overload, which is a shame because there are a lot of talented traditional fighters in this film. I would have preferred better choreographed sequences when using actors like Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa, who do a lot of their own stunts and hand-to-hand combat. Jaa is underused, which is a crime in itself. The action sequences have so many edits in them, I assume the editor must have been on a combination of Red Bull and crack when trying to piece them together. Sometimes, the editing is so obnoxious, I can’t actually tell who is fighting who, or what’s even going on. And I said I enjoyed most of the new cast, but I didn’t like Nina Dobrev, who is an obnoxious character given far too much screentime. Then again, the tech guy from the first two films was annoying also, so maybe that’s the signature of the XXX movies? Find the most obnoxious tech character to follow XXX around? This is not a smart action movie. It is fun, but it’s not smart. At. All.

Final Word: I’m actually kind of amazed I enjoyed this as much as I did, because I kept shaking my head at the story. There was only one decent plot twist, and it comes about in the middle of the film. The rest of the film is obvious and predictable. The action sequences are fun at times, but when it comes to hand-to-hand stuff, we start getting this rapid fire editing to mask the use of stunt doubles, which is just a shame. At the end of the day, I somehow managed to enjoy this film. I credit the majority of the cast, and Diesel, who feels at home in this role and this type of film. It doesn’t try and take itself too seriously, which helps me forgive a lot of its sins. It seems to know it’s a dumb action film, and it delivers instead by looking good, and feeling great. I normally wouldn’t score a movie this dumb this high, but at the end of the day, I have to weigh in the factor that I did actually have fun, and I did actually like this film. I’m not really sure how, and I can totally understand if you hate it. In fact, I know it’s only January, but I have a feeling this might end up my biggest guilty pleasure of the year.

Final Grade: B
It’s really like a C movie, but I’m boosting that because I had fun.

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