Review: 'xXx: Return of Xander Cage' (2017)


Have you guys ever done something knowing exactly what to expect? Knowing what you were about to do was not going to be good, but also knowing it was going to be a whole lot of ridiculous fun? Knowing you just had to shut your brain off, strap yourself in, and enjoy the ride? Basically, I guess what I’m asking is. . . . Have you guys ever seen a movie starring Vin Diesel? Because I have. . . . I’ve seen all movies starring Vin Diesel and they’re all the same. I know they will all be bad (speaking in terms of objective criticism), but I know they will all be AWESOME (speaking in terms of unashamed ridiculousness and badassery) and I know I will probably love them more than the average person (mostly because the average person doesn’t appreciate the art of manly action movies like you and I do). You see, we get it. We understand that action movies can’t always be judged in the same manner as what some people would call “real” movies are. We understand that action movies aren’t trying to be one of those boring “real” movies. Instead, they strive to get your blood pumping, they strive to be badass, and they strive to be a whole lot of fun. Some action movies are over the top and ridiculous, I can concede that. But that only becomes a problem when they don’t realize how silly or stupid they actually are. Some movies, like xXx: Return of Xander Cage, realize how silly they are and they embrace that, which only enhances the movie and ratchets up the fun level to new heights.


xXx: Return of Xander Cage is the 3rd movie in the xXx series which, up to this point, has been mostly forgettable. The first was an ok action movie, the second was decent in the way that only terrible action movies can be, but neither one really did it for me. I saw each one, I moderately enjoyed watching each one for the hour and a half they played, then I forgot about them. They didn’t make me giddy with excitement, they didn’t have me laughing hysterically at the physically impossible stunts or silly one liners, and they didn’t pump me up with their sheer badassery. They just existed, and for an action movie, that’s not enough for me. That was definitely not the case for Return of Xander Cage, which delivered in all of those areas and more (I don’t know why it’s not THE Return of Xander Cage. I guess he’s too cool and hip for the word “the”. The more I type the title, the more that is frustrating me).


The plot (which doesn’t matter) is very dumb. Someone has a device, Pandora’s Box, that can hack any of the satellites orbiting Earth and send them crashing to the planet like a missile with crazy accuracy. This is a big problem since, according to my extensive research (a 30 second search on google where I considered the first number I found to be a fact), there are 2,271 satellites orbiting Earth. We find out about this device when it is used in the opening sequence to kill Sam Jackson as he is recruiting a new member to the xXx program. People got excited about this scene because the recruit is apparently a big time soccer player playing himself in the movie. I didn’t know that until I looked it up, so I was not one of those excited people. Anyways, bad news; Sam Jackson is dead, good news; now there are only 2,270 satellite’s left to be used as missiles.


The government, being the non xXx-ey, nerdy squares they are, get Pandora’s Box stolen from them (we’re never told how they have it at this point) by a bunch of badass xXx style adrenaline junkies including Tony Jaa (completely wasted in the role) and led by Donnie Yen (probably his best role in an American movie to date). Now you’re thinking, “No problem, I’m sure the government has a group of highly trained individuals ready to handle exactly this type of thing”. No. . . they don’t. Don’t you see? It’s obvious. The only type of people that can catch these rad sons of extreme sports athletes are people with a certain set of skills. . . the xXx kind of skills! Because everybody knows only cool people can hunt down other cool people.

Donnie Yen, as always, is 1000% badass.

The government decides to find Xander Cage and have him help them, even though he is supposed to be dead. Did you know he was dead? I guess that was mentioned in one of the other two movies. . . Like I said, I don’t remember them at all. Spoiler Alert: Turns out he is not dead and he’s totally fine with helping them retrieve Pandora’s Box. . . as long as he can pick his own team. See, he’s fine working for them but not with them. . . or maybe it’s the other way around. I don’t know. Either way, he’s picking his own team and that’s that.


Boy, what a team it is! These people have all the rebellious qualifications to track down some renegade cool people. Let’s go over the checklist for the requirements needed to catch a group of villainous X Gamers just to make sure they’re all here. Do they have Ruby Rose as a sniper who we know is cool because: 1) She has short cut, bright blue hair and 2) we first meet her as she is sniping fat white dudes who are hunting lions? Check! What about The Hound from Game of Thrones as a stunt driver who’s really good at crashing vehicles and surviving? Check! Last one, and probably most important, please tell me the team has a guy who is SOOOO cool his special talent is being such a badass DJ that he can cause crowds to run to the dance floor creating a perfect distraction for the other team members. Check. Great!! Looks like Vin Diesel has done his homework and knows how to assemble the best special ops team ever.

Say hello to your super team.

So there’s the plot. One group of extreme sportsy people has to catch another group of extreme sportsy people. Of course, as one would expect in a situation like that, plenty of action ensues (Yes. . . don’t worry. It is, in fact, the extreme sportsy kind of action) and that’s what we truly care about! How is the action?! Well, it is some the stupidest and most ridiculous and silly action I’ve seen in a while (Think of the Fast and Furious movies if they were cranked up to 11). . . It also happens to be pretty dang good. We get Vin Diesel (I should say Vin Diesel’s insanely obvious stunt double) skateboarding through heavy traffic, skiing through the forest (Ya, that’s a thing now. All the cool kids/50 year old Vin Diesels are doing it now), and beating people up with a dirt bike. . . not only on a dirt bike, but literally with a dirt bike. He ramps it, flips it, and wheelies it to hit people with the bike. It’s completely bonkers and amazing to watch. We also get to watch dirt bikes driven on the ocean, fist fights in a crashing airplane, and Donnie Yen kicking butt while spouting one-liners in bad English. . . pretty much everything action fans could want.

Vin Diesel whooping asses with a dirt bike.

I could spend some time now discussing the other aspects of the movie like acting, cinematography, etc., but I won’t. If you are wanting to see this movie for any of that stuff, you either have the worst taste in movies, or you simply aren’t very smart. All of that stuff is bad. Of course it is! But none of that matters in a movie like this. I’m a firm believer in rating a movie based on what it strives to be. I might not like what the movie is trying to be, but if it succeeds in being what it is striving to be, then it must be doing something right. . . . right? Well, xXx: Return of Xander Cage knows what it wants to be, and it is exactly that. It’s a silly movie that embraces that fact by taking the silliness to a whole new level, and it’s made all the more glorious as a result. It is not a great movie and it may not be remembered as a great action movie (Hell, chances are it probably won’t be remembered at all), but one thing is for certain; it is definitely one of the most enjoyably ridiculous action movies I’ve seen in a long time.


What I’m trying to say is, if, like me, you are capable of shutting your brain off for a bit and overlooking physically impossible, sometimes unintentionally funny, action movies, there’s a good possibility you will love this rollercoaster ride. If you are looking for a movie with any sort of artistic merit or value, or if you aren’t into one-liners where the punch line is a kick in the balls (That actually happens in this movie), you should probably avoid this movie at all costs.

OBJECTIVE RATING: 3 out of 10 SUBJECTIVE RATING (Taking the Fun Factor and enjoyment into account): 7.5 out of 10



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