Monday, March 13, 2017

xXx: Return of Xander Cage


Directed by D.J. Caruso.
2017. Rated PG-13, 107 minutes.
Cast:
Vin Diesel
Toni Collette
Donnie Yen
Tony Jaa
Deepika Padukon
Ruby Rose
Kris Wu
Samuel L. Jackson
Nina Dobrev
Rory McCann
Hermione Corfield
Ice Cube

In an attempt to corner the market on over the top action flicks without any characters having superpowers featuring dozens (hundreds?) of scantily clad, gyrating extras, Vin Diesel is back in Fast & Furious 7.5 as Dominic Torreto Xander Cage, the secret agent who rocks the sickest fur coat this side of Cruella de Vil. What draws our hero back is the death of xXx mentor, Agent Gibbons (Jackson). It seems the people who killed Gibbons have gotten hold of a thingamajig rather unimaginatively named Pandora's Box. It's basically a remote control for every military satellite orbiting Earth and they're using it to make those satellites drop out of the sky onto the heads of whomever they choose. Since these guys are also capable of some pretty extreme feats, Cage assembles his own team of badasses to compete. Well, most of them aren't exactly badasses. They just have a skill that allows our hero to have background support while saving the day. One of them has the highly coveted ability to cold rock a party because he's an awesome DJ. No, I'm not shitting you.

I could dive right into a diatribe about how the story is a shallow collection of predictable plot points that merely move us from stunt to stunt. I could also complain about all the lame jokes tossed at the wall in hopes something sticks. This includes a rehash of the series's signature one-liner, "The things I'm about to do for my country." I could lament the fact that this new multi-racial, multi-gender, multi-sexuality team is clearly a rip-off of the squad in another Vin Diesel led franchise (no, not Riddick, silly). I could tell you how many times I cringed when one of the "bad guys," played by Ong-Bak star Tony Jaa, broke out into a Michael Jackson impersonation every time he did anything. I'm still not shitting you. I might even argue that it's a huge mistake to eliminate Samuel L. Jackson, the most interesting person in the series, in the opening minutes. I, or you if you've seen it, would be perfectly justified calling xXx: The Return of Xander Cage progressively stupid. Why would I? If I did that, you might be under the mistaken impression that I was looking for a good film. No, no, no. I went into this looking for a movie. A popcorn movie, more specifically. To drop a movie blogger cliché on you, this is a "turn your brain off" movie. Well, I thought that was just a silly saying, but it's an actual thing. At the theater where I attended they had an usher right outside the auditorium door with a large, but flexible, key he offered to slide gently into your ear and actually turn your brain off. Being that this pimply kid probably lacked the proper training to wield such a device, it was a risky proposition. I figured 'what the hell,' I paid for the premium package so I might as well go for it. Turns out it was a perfect way to enjoy all the nuttiness that washed over me for, thankfully, less than two hours.


That nuttiness was just ridiculous stunt after ridiculous stunt after ridiculous stunt. Literally, anything is possible, to borrow a line from the great Kevin Garnett. If you don't know who that is, I'm not helpling you. Anyhoo, aside from Tony Jaa, we also have the one and only Ip Man, Donnie Yen. And, in at least one scene, he gets to use a gun. How the hell is that fair? There's Vin Diesel's sniper friend who wraps herself in cloth in a tree in a manner that looks like it took hours, if it's even possible for one person to pull it off, at all.She eventually makes the most impossible shot in the history of Hollywood, and that's saying something. We have the boats that come way too far inland to arrive in the nick of time. Finally, there's the man, himself. A motorcycle chase on water? Check. Skateboarding off the side of a moving bus? Check. A game of hot potato with live grenades? Check. And yes, there's lots and lots fistfights.

In the acting department. Vin Diesel gives us his typical swagger, which is perfect for this, and for Mrs. Dell. She wanted me to let you know this. Maybe she doesn't, but she let me know this. Guess I can't blame her too much. After all, his mumble-growl is in full effect, here. In the few moments Samuel L. Jackson gets, he gives us that trademarked bombastic "What's in your wallet?" charm. He also gets to reference Nick Fury, his character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a few times. Donnie Yen gives us Donnie Yen, always a win. Deepika Padukon plays our hero's love interest and tries to give a nuanced performance. She's not bad, but I mean, what the hell movie does she think she's in? The best portrayal belongs to an androgynous, and all-too obviously duplicitous Toni Collette, in full ham mode, gobbling up large chunks of scenery with every line. Combine this with the sheer insanity on display and this is just the type of garbage I signed up for when I plunked down some hard earned cash. It's the perfect appetizer for what I hope is the truly craptacular The Fate of the Furious. Aside from having to chase down that kid with the key to my brain, The Return of Xander Cage experience is so bad it's awesome!

18 comments:

  1. So far this years dumping grounds has been pretty, well, pleasant, but I knew it would only be for a while 'til it all would come crashing down, and here it is. I mostly just wonder why this needs to exist, I mean, did anyone want this? lol. I am excited for the new Malick film on the 17th tho, I'll probs go see it for my birthday on the 19th, what a great present! xD oh btw I posted my awards Oscar morning if you're interested :)

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    1. My wife wanted this, pretty badly. She has a thing for Vince Diesel. Hope you like the Malick film. So far, he's proven to not be for me.

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  2. I have, thankfully, missed all these flicks. I have to laugh at the picture above because it shows Vin without a shirt...somehow so typical

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  3. Not gonna lie....I love rubbish like this where is so bad its good. Will check the film out when its out on DVD knowing to expect utter rubbish nonsense from start to finish. I mean its got bloody Neymar in it.

    Also I have a funny story regarding this film. I decided to have a small break at work and googled this film. So, I typed 'xxx' and hit enter (and work don't forget) and well....you can guess what the results were. Haha

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    1. If rubbish is what you want, look no further. And yeah, searching for xxx at work was not a good move.

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    2. This really did make me laugh

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  4. Movies like this I can enjoy when they're on HBO and I can get drunk and laugh at them. That might be how I see this lol.

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  5. I would love to completely agree with you on this.... but sadly I wasn't able to catch this in theaters. I actually REALLY wanted to, because the original XXX is one of my guiltiest pleasures, but alas, the times were just never convenient for when I wanted a "turn your brain off" movie. I will absolutely be catching it when it's available for home viewing, though, BELIEVE ME.

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    1. This is definitely a guilty pleasure type of movie. If you go in with that mindset you should have a blast with it.

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  6. Hmmm, I gotta admit that this thing has looked laughably awful. I could barely make it through the trailers without feeling bad for everyone on screen. I know, not the right approach. But I just couldn't shake those bad trailers.

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    1. Absolutely steer clear if you are looking for something "good." This ain't gonna get it done for you.

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  7. Reading this review was delightful fun which, from the sound of it, is a lot more than I'd get from seeing the actual movie.

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    1. You're probably right. This is all empty calories.

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  8. Hahahahhaha I could not have said it better myself, though I did try in my review (dropping tomorrow). I think you hit the nail right on the head. If you plant an apple tree and expect oranges, you're gonna be disappointed. If you go into a Vin Diesel, sleeveless action flick expecting Citizen Kane, you're also going to be disappointed. I didn't know that dj'ing was an extreme sport...suddenly have so much more respect for Calvin Harris. The best thing about this movie is that it doesn't try to take itself to seriously. I loved the title cards and one-liners. I think Jackson was a sore miss but Collette does a good enough job filling in. Everyone's talking about a King King vs Godzilla mashup, I want to see Dominic Torretto go up against Xander Cage...that's not possible you say? Refer to every scene in this movie...

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    1. Thanks! There's certainly no point going into this looking for deep, meaningful art. I don't think anyone knew DJ'ing was an extreme sport. They taught us all something with that one. Dude, I'd be all over Toretto v. Cage: Dawn of Crush This!

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