Thu. Dec 1st, 2022

packed with fantastic character actors, full of ridiculously insane fight scenes and centered on a functionally impossible piece of technology, xXx: Return of Xander Cage is everything you need from an action movie. There’s a thin layer of a plot involving an evil laptop called Pandora’s Box, whose superpowers “spy on everyone”, “control satellites” and inject hostile poop emojis into web sessions. Just kidding about that last one. This film has no web sessions. But I am not Joke about how Vin Diesel’s acting as “underground blogger” Xander Cage is goofily badass, and his crew’s jokes are equally fun.

This is the third xXx movie, although only the second with Vin Diesel. Ice Cube took over the X helm for the second movie, and this movie basically continues for a few years after that. There is still a secret international X program attached to various intelligence agencies, and the X agents are all underground rebel celebs who do things like skateboard for great justice.

In this episode, a nefarious villain uses Pandora’s Box (which looks like someone put a thick black plastic case on a first-generation Nintendo DS) to hijack random satellites and send them to Earth. His first target? Xander’s old boss, Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), who tries to recruit a soccer star for the X team in China. The CIA, or NSA, or… anyone off the map. They had Pandora’s box, but it was stolen right under their noses by Xiang (martial arts master Donnie Yen) after he broke into a secret meeting and did his whole buzzing-kicking-gun-whirling thing. Who could possibly help save the world from dangerous new connected devices and all? You guessed it. The original X, Xander Cage.

But Xander is busy in the Dominican Republic with his usual insane stunts. We meet him in one of the very best scenes in the movie, where we see him climb a massive satellite tower, grab a box, and then hop into a pair of skis to slalom down a rocky hill, all in a race against a digital stopwatch. he keeps checking. What would he be doing? Defuse a bomb? Steal malicious spy data? Set a new record for extreme sports? No. With only a few seconds to go, he reaches the finish line, an old wooden hut with some wires in it. He attaches the box to the wires and… voila, everyone in the village can watch the football match! Yes, he steals cable. Did I mention I love this movie?

Once he’s reactivated as an agent, the real fun begins. His gang includes a bunch of actors I never thought I’d see together on the same screen, including Nina Dobrev (Vampire Diaries) as the nerdy tech expert, Ruby Rose (Orange is the new black) as the sniper, K-pop star Kris Wu as the guy whose superpower is DJing (this is handy), and Rory McCann (The Hound from Game of Thrones) as the stuntman of the psycho car crash.

They are eventually joined by a few other people, including Bollywood megastar Deepika Padukone. Typical for a xXx In the film, Padukone introduces herself by showing her tattoos and telling Xander that she joined X after climbing a skyscraper to leave graffiti on the top floor. “The YouTube video has been viewed more than 2 million times,” she boasts. Meanwhile, McCann understands his car accidents and Wu hacks the decks at dance parties to make the beats go faster.

The hook of the xXx movies has always been a combination of extreme sports and MacGyver-esque ingenuity. When Xander does a motorcycle chase, his ride shoots water skis so he can literally… surfing a giant wave on his motorbike. The technology in this movie is definitely Scorpion level in its folly, but that’s part of the appeal. If you want advanced hacker scenes, check it out Mr Robot or Suspect. xXx is there when you want to laugh at the absurdity of it all. No one in this movie is under any illusion that they’re doing anything but delivering corny sentences to pass the time between insanely good action sequences.

Xander’s motto, as Gibbons puts it, is “to kick ass, get the girl, and look dope doing.” Even when he throws himself out of a plane to save the world, Xander never forgets to film it for YouTube. And of course, he always has time to pull a furry pimp coat over his bare chest and flirt with nerdy girls. One of the things that is hilarious about Xander is that he is constantly stared at and half harassed by the women around him. I mean, of course, he enjoys it. But this isn’t a James Bond situation where he seduces young women with soft, cold calculation. He is actually treated like a himbo. A chic underground hacker gives him some data after he agrees to sleep with her entire entourage. Once he’s done that “for his country,” Xander encounters the speckled geek Dobrev, who babbles over his pecs and attacks him instead of explaining their mission. He’s kind of a male Pamela Anderson, and it just works.

The bottom line is that xXx: Return of Xander Cage is a wonderful action film with a heart of gold. There is no complexity. The good guys will of course win. Everyone in the diverse cast looks hot and tough. Characters express their feelings with lines like “that was fucking awesome!” It’s the perfect weekend diversion for the midst of the darkest winter.

List image by Paramount

By akfire1

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