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XXX: Return Of Xander Cage Review

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Vin Diesel is back to show he can look dope performing high-octane stunts.

XXX: Return of Xander Cage brings the titular character, played by Vin Diesel, back from the dead. Diesel is joined by a robust cast, and this latest film strays from the previous XXX formula of using a single unorthodox but skilled civilian to save the day, becoming more of a heist film as opposed to a generic action vehicle. The diverse cast with disparate fighting styles and backgrounds allows the movie to mix up the extreme and over-the-top action sequences. This movie delivers dumb, fun action with plenty of awe-inspiring stunts and laughs that make this a good evolution for the XXX franchise.

The XXX series never really took off as a franchise. Diesel did not return for the second installment, 2005’s XXX: State of the Union, which underperformed at the box office. Within the series' continuity, Diesel's character was already dead--but, surprise, he's apparently still alive and well enough to reappear in the third chapter. What could possibly pull him out of hiding and retirement? Someone has stolen a device that allows the user to send a satellite crashing down on a target of their choice. The death of one of Xander's friends by a satellite, along with his innate desire to do the right thing, are enough to convince him to return. Luckily for the world, Xander is ready to immediately step back into action, as he’s seemingly remained in tip-top shape all these years by skiing through jungle slopes and skateboarding down steep hills at incredible speeds.

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The first XXX movie focused mainly on Diesel's character infiltrating enemy territory and defeating the bad guys pretty much on his own, but this time he calls in backup. There's no way he'd work with government-trained soldiers, so Xander brings in several acquaintances, including a sharpshooter sniper (Ruby Rose); a fearless, maniacal getaway driver (Rory McCann); and a young DJ equally skilled with dropping beats and shooting guns (Kris Wu). Xander also accepts some assistance from a young, eager CIA tech specialist (Nina Dobrev) who’s in awe of the legendary Xander Cage's presence.

Despite their seeming lack of a trained background, Xander’s crew proves themselves more than capable of handling anything thrown at them. This ragtag team continually show its skills under pressure, with their witty dialogue during tense moments and easy camaraderie all making them extremely likable. Overseeing the entire operation is Toni Collette, who gives an icy performance as Xander's CIA handler, taking the place of Samuel L. Jackson, who has a smaller role in this film. For fans of Diesel’s Fast & Furious movies, there are some similarities here including ridiculous set pieces and locations, along with a diverse array of characters. It’s clear Diesel has gotten a taste for working in ensemble flicks, and the influence can be felt here.

The first movie mainly focused on typical extreme-sports stunt sequences, but in this latest addition, martial arts fighting is added as Xander now finds himself going up against a ruthless and deadly group responsible for stealing the CIA device. Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa's fighting expertise amps up the action and gives it a different feel from Diesel's previous XXX jaunt. Yen fights soldiers in a plane simulating zero gravity and also fights against Diesel in the middle of traffic. We see Yen easily knock out two foes with one kick as well as deliver a series of blows while running after Diesel.

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The movie includes some eye-rolling moments, but Diesel and the rest of the cast have enough charm to keep you invested in the story. The filmmakers and stunt coordinators give us action we haven’t seen time and time again in other blockbuster movies, such as a high-speed chase on motorcycles equipped with skis to allow the pursuit to venture onto the roaring waves of the ocean.

The movie offers some twists and betrayals, and there's a thin plot that barely manages to keep all the action sequences tied together. You have to accept that Pandora's Box can be easily stolen from the CIA. Diesel takes his time gathering intel and his associates, but then he’s able to quickly find Yen and the others. These things can be overlooked for the sake of moving the story along to get to more action scenes and to reach the conclusion. For a former skateboarder, he has no fears or qualms strolling into another country and being a smartass when several guns are pointed at him. His knack for survival and luck in having everything work out perfectly is almost like a superpower. At the beginning of the film, when he jumps off a radio tower on skis, I was surprised he didn't break both legs when he landed. You'll start to wonder if there is anything Xander Cage can't do. Accepting the characters can keep pushing the limits with minimal bodily harm is what makes this movie work.

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XXX: Return of Xander Cage is an action film with the ability to successfully tie together crazy stunts, cheesy dialogue, high-speed chases, and plenty of gunfire and explosions. The movie includes some expected clichés, but the fighting styles and performances of the actors are enough to give action junkies what they paid to see. The movie is fully aware of what it's meant to be. It doesn’t attempt to redefine the action genre, but it does push the envelope by delivering a succession of well-crafted stunts.

The GoodThe Bad
A lot of intense action scenes.Cheesy dialogue and eye-rolling scenes.
An ensemble cast to add levity to the story.Some predictable moments.
Donnie Yen.A lot of suspension of disbelief needed.
Motorcycles with skis.

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gmanfromheck

Tony Guerrero

Senior Managing Editor, GameSpot Entertainment. First favorite video game was 'Adventure' on the Atari 2600.
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