xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

<strong class="MovieTitle">xXx: Return of Xander Cage</strong> (2017)

(Netflix Streaming, August 2018) Sometimes, you don’t fully appreciate what you’ve got until it goes away, and that’s a bit how I feel about xXx: Return of Xander Cage considering that it’s a blatant throwback to the kind of silly overblown action movie that they were making in the early 2000s with the original xXx and xXx: State of the Union. Those movies kind of went away while we weren’t looking, replaced by grittier, meaner, shakier but not necessarily better Bourne knockoffs. And now here are Vin Diesel and xXx: Return of Xander Cage, unapologetically renewing with the style and content of the first two films. Our xXx hero, as it turns out, never died despite misinformed reports to the contrary: He just travelled around the world and stands ready to be reluctantly recruited once more when hacky-wacky mumbo-jumbo stuff needs fixing once again. However, this time he gets to team up with slightly-less grandiose archetypes in order to fight for freedom and all that good stuff. So it is that we don’t just get Vin Diesel, but the always-watchable Ruby Rose as a sharpshooter, action sensation Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev in a very cute nerdy-girl role, Toni Colette and Samuel L. Jackson walking on and off the screen to make sure the plot mechanics are set up properly, and none other than Ice Cube back in a return engagement through an absolutely classic introduction featuring his own music. If you’ve read this far without realizing that xXx: Return of Xander Cage is not a great movie, I question your attentiveness. It is, however, an increasingly enjoyable film especially if you saw its predecessors. Diesel and Cube both try to out-surly each other, while the supporting cast knows that they’re not going for subtlety. The action sequences are just fine thanks to director D. J. Caruso’s competency with the form. (It had been a while since he helmed good genre movies; it’s good to have him back.) Of course, the conscious decision to ape the original film’s methods means that xXx: Return of Xander Cage does feel like a throwback to 10–15 years ago. But there’s no school like the old school, and as a fan of that particular era of action filmmaking, I truly had unexpected fun watching it all happen again. I’m not necessarily demanding another sequel, but I’d be good with it.

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