XXX : Return of Xander Cage – REVIEW

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.......he suspected that there might be some water in the petrol tank.....

After the release of 2002’s ‘XXX’ its use of extreme sports inspired our Editor to take up the challenge with his own DIY attempt at bungee jumping. Regretfully it was whilst attempting  a 200metre bungee drop that he realised he’d used a 300metre rope….made worse by the fact that he was already on a downward plummet when he remembered this and consequently spent the next six months in traction. But we digress because after a lack lustre 2005 sequel with chubby scowler Ice Cube (though frankly Ice Bun would have been more appropriate) we now have a sequel that no one’s been crying out for.

With rasping egg Vin Diesel returning in the lead role as Xander Cage we re-make his acquaintance in an exhilarating sequence as he vertical skiis off a pylon before indulging in a 2000mph skateboard ride along a  twisting  road before ending with an amusing payoff. It’s that which sets up the jokey tone of the film with some funny quips which regrettably demonstrate that Diesel  is no Dwayne Johnson when it comes to delivering a funny line.

With Samuel L Jackson back as Cage’s recruitment agent he’s given an opening monologue delivered in his typical style until, wouldn’t you know it, a satellite lands on him.  It’s left to Toni Collette, who frankly is slumming it here, as  a straight laced CIA agent trying to locate a digital Pandora’s Box which is sending said satellite crashing to Earth one by one.  So with all the technology and agents at her disposal she of course opts for a slightly aging, overly tattooed, jowly slacker to locate the person who’s doing all this and get the digital boxes back. Our hero finds it remarkably easy through the help of a sultry tech expert (when it should have been done by a spotty nerd in his bedroom) and despite a slightly queasy sequence where a gaggle of models fall for him and indulge in some jiggy-jiggy even though he’s wearing a coat that makes him look like a burst cushion.

From here he gets his team together, fair enough when it includes an ex-stunt man with a crash fetish, a lesbian sharp shot assassin and perhaps most useless of all is a DJ whose skills seem only to extend to wearing a hoodie like he’s on a cat walk. And off they go to save the day getting into all sort of improbable scrapes including a rather good real life Frogger game on fast moving traffic.

As might be expected the plot is really a minor distraction to all the actions sequences and some are flashily shot by director DJ Caruso and are as about as credible as those seen in the Fast and the Furious franchise which the film increasingly resembles possibly due to Diesel being  star and producer of both franchises. So the bonkers mad gravity defying sequences are there, the emphasis on the team as ‘family’ and the women seeming to have been contractually obliged to  wear scanty clothing and the camera lingering over the barely there outfits of the background extras. It’s all rather adolescently indulgent (which the film is clearly aimed at) as women swoon at the legend that is Xander Cage when they meet him and you can’t help but wonder if this is something of a vanity project for the star when scenes like that are written into the script.

He’s ably supported by Donnie Yen as a rival who may be the key to all of this but who’s there for the Far East market due to the films part financing from China and Collete rises above them all on the acting front but Nina Dobrev is endearingly gawky as a CIA gadget specialist, not dissimilar to Bond’s Q, except here rather than being irritated by the hero she’s wholly in awe of him. With so many of the good guys doing their thing the film has almost totally forgotten its bad guy who when he does appear it’s only for the briefest of moments.  It all moves briskly along but for a hero recruited for his expertise in extreme sports many of the actions sequences are little more than generic fist fights and gunplay which is a great shame as the opening sequence shows they missed an opportunity to set the film apart from others in the genre.

Here’s the trailer…….

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