xXx: Return of Xander Cage Review

“Kick some ass, get the girl, and try to look dope while you’re doing it.”

Paramount Pictures’ latest film,  xXx: Return of Xander Cage (“Return of Xander Cage”), sees the adrenalin junkie turned special government operative, Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), return from self-imposed exile to defeat a group of terrorists in possession of the powerful weapon known only as ‘Pandora’s Box’. The film is the third in the xXx film series and includes a fantastic cast alongside Vin Diesel, comprising of Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, Toni Collette and Samuel L. Jackson.  

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The plot of the film is simple and much like any other spy- action thriller, in which a group of sinister baddies threaten the world with a device that could result in mass murder. To counter this terrorist plot, the government recruits their best operatives to save the day, which involves pretty girls, epic action and a super spy with unbridled charm. Return of Xander Cage certainly fits this stereotype with a plot that personifies the very core of the action genre. Think an extreme, adrenaline fuelled James Bond film.

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While the story and narrative of the film is completely unoriginal, the way in which the plot unfolds is entertaining and one which requires no concentration whatsoever. The action sequences and stunts in the film were spectacular and is definitely an aspect which carried the film. From the brilliant opening sequence showcasing Cage’s athleticism and prowess with a long board to the incredible martial arts fight scenes with Xiang (Donnie Yen), the action in the film is thrilling. Of course the stunning visuals and high-end technology used in the film also added to its allure.

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Character development was lacking in some parts which hinted at the assumption that character backstories and personalities were not pertinent to the film. However, rest assured that characters are in no way simply thrown into a scene without an introduction. In an almost comic-book like way, each character is introduced with a brief card, which lists key points that the film believes to be important for viewers to know. While other films may require more information be given, the way in which this film introduces its characters is sufficient.

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While character development was virtually non-existent, each character within the film were unique and interesting. The women of the film were particularly delightful simple due to each possessing their own set of unique skills and personalities. Serena Unger (Padukone) was a breath of fresh air especially for me due to my cultural background. It’s exciting to see a well-known Bollywood actress play a strong female lead role in a blockbuster film and even more so to watch her not fawn all over the male lead. Similarly, both Nina Dobrev and Ruby Rose played their characters incredibly well with Dobrev’s chatty humour and Rose’s badassery. The only character that was slightly off-putting was Xander Cage himself. Vin Diesel will always be the loyal family man that he portrayed in the Fast and Furious series and so, for me, it was difficult to see him be a playboy with no qualms about bedding women who looked half his age. His corny lines and over-exaggerated charm certainly didn’t help. In all honesty, based on the film’s timeline, it would have been better to have a younger actor take on the lead as a completely different titular character. Diesel, in my opinion, is far too old to be playing the ‘player’ role. Of course, he’s still a wicked machine and kicks ass in action scenes, so perhaps downplaying his lover-boy instincts would have sufficed.

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Return of Xander Cage isn’t a film which is unique in the action genre with a story that is highly repetitive and overused. A film that can be very much considered as a mindless action film and can be watched without 100% concentration, Return of Xander Cage may not be the best action film of the year but is still a fun watch. With fantastic martial arts, thrilling adrenaline-rush moments and characters that are relatively likeable, this film is recommended for fans of the xXx film series and action films as a whole. As long as you remember that the film is not about the characters or the plot but about the girls, gadgets, gunfire and explosions. Perhaps wait for the DVD.

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