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Reviewer: Daniel Burden

Director: D.J Caruso

Stars: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Ruby Rose, Deepika Padukone, Tony Jaa, Toni Collette and Samuel L. Jackson

Do you remember xXx? An extreme sports action flick that came out in 2002? Meant to be a none too subtle attack on James Bond and gentlemen spies?
No?
It’s what Vin Diesel initially did instead of returning to the Fast & Furious franchise, and while it was fun, it was also largely forgettable. A sequel came later with Ice Cube in the lead role and it wasn’t well received.
The franchise was dead in the water. But Diesel wouldn’t let it go, much like Riddick, it seems he wills his own dead franchises back to life by sheer force of will.

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There’s a plot. It’s about a thing. And that thing can crash satellites. And the US government need Xander Cage, the one and only (or not, as the film later explains) xXx. And that’s about it without going into spoiler territory.

Before long, Xander Cage, and his ridiculous coat, is back.

It shouldn’t work. At all. The action scenes are over the top in a way I won’t spoil, this film pays tribute to the films that went before, also in a way I won’t spoil, the dialogue is hammy. It really, really shouldn’t work.

But here’s the thing.

It does.

Vin Diesel does earnest action better than anyone. It shouldn’t work, everything is too ridiculous and yet, he sells it entirely.
The supporting cast is great too, and truth be told they are what makes the film work. It is as much Donnie Yen’s film as it is Diesel’s, the actor is always a joy and in xXx he is a force of nature, fighting through some fantastic action sequences and making quips with the best of them. Yen’s a fairly big star, his recent turn in Rogue One is a real treat and he should be headlining his own Hollywood action films.

It’s a mixed and multicultural cast, which earns points, the new xXx team manage to be a bizarre statement about diversity in film and a welcome one.

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Females characters don’t need to be rescued, they kick and shoot as much ass as anyone else.
Personally, I’m hoping Ruby Rose’s sniper character gets her own spin-off. Because we all need more Ruby Rose on our screens, as often as possible.
I hope they make a fourth film now.

The final act is brilliant silly, gunfights on the ground, a footchase through Detroit traffic, the best sniper shot you’ll ever see, zero G aboard a crashing plane. xXx has all this in the last 30 minutes, and more.

The faults are minor, some obvious and cheap CGI that doesn’t ruin a motorbikes on water chase but does draw attention away from the action. Some characters don’t work, Nina Dobrev’s tech girl is cute and amusing at first but outstays her welcome. Equally, Toni Collette’s government agent feels out of place, and Collette is a fantastic actress… Just not in this. Another issue are the overly gratuitous shots of women in various states of undress, their clothes literally falling off at the sight of Xander. It’s that type of film and not meant to be taken seriously, but it does undermine the other strong female characters ever so slightly.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is about as much fun as you can have in the dark, in a room full of people. Maybe.
Stupid, utterly stupid. Somehow more ludicrous than Fast & Furious, Diesel has certainly got himself into a niche of entertainingly stupid and stupidly entertaining films.
But it’s a rare action film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is a joyous thrill ride from beginning to end. It’s not for everyone, you either buy into the madness and go with it, or you don’t and the whole thing seems stupid in the worst possible way.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is worth dipping back into the ressurected series. It might be a cliche but turn your brain off and enjoy ride back into the “Xander Zone”.

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