Review: xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Believe it or not, there were a cornucopia of moments in this movie where I was reminded of Suicide Squad. It was like the moviemakers pitched this film by saying, “What if we remade Suicide Squad, but it was slightly more narratively competent, and twice as unsubtle? Also, no Jared Leto in white-face.”

 

Despite the fact that I’ve never seen any of the other xXx installments, I already knew what I was in for: over-the-top action, sexy women who were probably only primarily defined by being sexy (and occasionally “badass”), and a whole lot of self-awareness about how stupid they were being.

And Return of Xander Cage is really really stupid, and it is aware of how stupid it was being. Actually, the initial stupidity of the story was quite charming… at first.

 

And then about halfway through the movie, I realized that there was no off-switch for its stupidity. Before the movie was even halfway over, I completely lost interest.

 

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Return of Xander Cage is nonstop violence, nonstop women-in-revealing attire, and holy crap, nonstop one-liners.

Now you’d think that this constant campiness, action, and girls would be really fun and exciting. I honestly thought so too.  But when your movie has nothing else to offer aside from these elements, then the entire experience quickly becomes stale, boring, and repetitive.

That’s because action-humor-titillation is the junk food of movies, and in order for the movie to not consume itself with ridiculousness, it needs to have more substance.

 

 

For instance, they could have a compelling, likable, charming lead character.

But Xander Cage is neither compelling nor likable, and he only has a minimal amount of charm. There is no compelling reason for him to do any of the things he’s doing in the movie.  (There’s a few spoilers in this review starting now… if you care…) Sure, his friend Gibbons was killed in the beginning, but this didn’t even seem to devastate Cage at all. The movie almost gives the vibe that he’s in this because he doesn’t have anything better to do (and I’m sure it’s also because Vin Diesel loves money).

Xander Cage’s response to everything is some sort of cheesy one-liner, almost all of which were completely unfunny.

And the movie seemed to think it was so funny when Xander Cage chains the marines, that are supposed to accompany him, to a crate and then push the crate off an airplane (in a way that even a 4th grader would have noticed, but apparently these marines didn’t) because he doesn’t like a bunch of government clowns following him around. Why? Because they’ve never done sick tricks on a skateboard (you think I’m joking…).

It was also likely because the marines didn’t spout out one-liners whenever they killed somebody.

 

 

 

Also, they could have had a cast of likable and understandable side characters.

But the movie doesn’t have that either. Instead, they have some Scottish asshole whose primary trait is that he likes crashing cars into things, an Asian asshole whose primary trait is that he loves to DJ, a green-haired lesbian whose primary trait is that she’s an asshole, and a glasses-wearing dorky girl who I’m almost positive accidentally stumbled into this movie thinking that it was an erotic film.

I say this because Becky, the glasses girl, is constantly talking as if she’s aroused by everything that’s around her, and she’s either wearing a business dress that’s more and more unbuttoned with every scene that she’s in, or a skin tight sweater.

 

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Additionally, they could have also had some menacing, compelling villains.

But halfway through the movie, I forgot why I was supposed to hate this invincible team of evil henchmen. And surprise surprise, as it turns out, they end up being good guys in the end. Because shock of all shocks, that blonde government woman (who was basically discount Amanda Waller from Suicide Squad) was actually an evil government evil corrupt government evil stooge. Why? BECAUSE REASONS DAMMIT!!

In fact, there were a couple moments in the movie where I hated the good guys more than I hated the bad guys.

 

 

Finally, they could have had a unique story that took risks.

But this movie, for all its ridiculousness, plays it excruciatingly safe. Nobody dies or becomes mortally wounded, nobody suffers any sort of loss or consequences, and it’s quickly discovered that all of these idiotic buffoons are all invincible action dispensers.

There was a moment where porno Becky talked about how she doesn’t like action because she’s terrified of guns, getting shot by guns, and any sort violence, so much so that she couldn’t do her job properly if she was on the field. And wouldn’t you know it, she ends up in some sort of fire fight by the end of this movie. Now I was thinking that this would be a moment where she would freeze up and vulnerably curl up until she found the courage to face her fear, but instead the movie forgot that Becky said how terrified of gunfire she was and actually kills three or four well-trained assassins (some of them on accident too… how quirky).

Shoot, not even Samuel L. Jackson died in the movie. They “killed” him off at the beginning of the film, but because this movie was so sterilizingly safe (and because I saw the trailer), it was painfully obvious that he didn’t actually die.

 

The only moment that came close to a “risk” was when they were introducing green-haired lesbian, and she’s out in the jungle, and her sniper rifle is trained on a lion.

And it was painfully obvious that she wasn’t actually there to shoot the lion; she was there to shoot a bunch of white people who wanted to kill the lion with a bow (get it?). And after she shoots and disables all of them, she leaves them to die by being eaten, and she has a shit-eating grin on her face while doing so.

Personally, I thought it was SO hilarious, because obviously the life of a lion is more important the human lives. It was also obvious that she thought the same thing (… it was the green hair that gave it away…).

 

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The entire story itself makes almost no sense if you think about it objectively for less than five minutes. Everything is really dumb, and nothing has any sort of meaningful purpose.

 

If there’s two things I’ve learned about xXx: Return of Xander Cage, it’s that

A. You shouldn’t try to google this movie by typing in just “xXx”.

and

B. Being a successfully stupid and self-aware movie has an art form to it…

 

… an artform that Return of Xander Cage has almost completely failed to master. Sure, there’s a handful of funny scenes, but the movie has no sense of self-control and quickly cannibalizes itself. If your entire diet consists of candy and ice cream, don’t be surprised if you get sick of it after awhile.

If you just want to be entertained while turning your brain off, then I would recommend this film. Otherwise, there is absolutely no point in seeing it, and I’m giving this movie a 2 out of 10.

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