Review: XXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)

As I left the theater following this screening, I had come to the conclusion that this film is ridiculous, dumb, over-the-top, and features some of the worst writing I had seen in a while.  At the same time, I also realized that I had an absolute blast of a time watching it, either despite this or because of it.  Such is one of the dilemmas of a film critic.  What does a critic rate a film that obviously has these negative aspects to it, but was entertained nevertheless?  In this case, I figure that the filmmakers behind this silly action flick had no intention of making a movie of substance and artistic integrity, but had junk food entertainment in mind.  And while too much junk food entertainment is not healthy for the mind or soul, it really is fun and delicious to partake of it every so often.

Vin Diesel returns to the role of Xander Cage, the role he made famous in the very first XXX movie.  After passing on the sequel where his character was supposedly killed off behind the scenes, this movie proves that Xander is not dead after all, but has gone into hiding.  After a terrorist attack claims the lives of two agents, the CIA seeks out Cage to help retrieve the source of the attack, a device known as “Pandora’s Box.” With multiple parties interested in the device, Xander and his team must use their talents and wits to get to it first, and expose the villain behind it before more tragedies occur.

Written by F. Scott Frazier and directed by D.J. Caruso, XXX: The Return of Xander Cage most certainly will not win any awards for achievements in writing, directing, acting, or even in the more technical areas.  As I previously stated, the writing is terrible, but is also hilarious and entertaining because it is so bad.  The direction is not the worst I have ever seen, but the film does have weaknesses in editing and most of the effects have either bad CGI work or way-too-obvious green screen work.

The dialogue is hammy and over-the-top with silly puns and one-liners galore.  This is what had me laughing and entertained the most.  The over-the-top and ridiculous (and sometimes pointless) action sequences also had me in stitches.  To be fair, there are actually a few superbly executed and shot action sequences, particularly those featuring the martial arts and stunts of actors Donnie Yen (Ip Man, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and Tony Jaa (The Ong Bak film franchise), but there are only a few of these.

The acting is mostly bad by the entire cast, though the film does have its okay moments with actors Samuel L. Jackson, Toni Collette, and star Vin Diesel.  Diesel’s presence and charisma mostly helps him pull of his role, though it obviously is not much of an acting challenge for him to play this character.  Despite the ridiculous that the massively, muscular actor is cast as an “extreme” athlete makes no sense whatsoever, but his commitment to the role, and the cool demeanor he brings to it, sells it well.

I have no idea what impact my review will have on how well this movie sells, though.  This latest XXX movie (not that the others were artistic masterpieces either)  has all of these bad aspects to it, but there is no denying how enjoyable and entertaining it all is.  I suppose I could easily compare this type of movie to a terrible, but fun B-movie or a grindhouse flick that serves no purpose other than escapism.  Either way, as much as I enjoyed this movie, I sincerely hope that this franchise ends with this one, because too much junk food is not good for anyone.

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