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By Ethan Magee

A lot of franchise movies came out in January, and GBT has been determined to give these sequel reboots a fair shake by watching the previous films in their respective franchises. Even though it’s important to judge a sequel on its own merit, it’s often just as important to understand the context behind it. For the latest Vin Diesel action vehicle, xXx: Return Of Xander Cage (2017), I didn’t realize how much I was going to need that context.

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CAGE returns to sweep the leg!

xXx is definitely a franchise that time forgot. The first film, which came out in 2002, follows Diesel hot off the success of the first Fast And The Furious film as an EXTREME sports adrenaline junky named XANDER CAGE who gets recruited by the NSA of all organizations to be a secret agent. This movie screams early 2000s culture with its whole focus on anything edgy and anti-establishment, like the villain owning a goth punk venue and Cage stealing a billionaire’s sports car to outrun the police and perform high octane stunts with. xXx (2002) goes well above and beyond to not only differentiate, but distance itself from other spy genre films to the point where it just comes off as this hilarious parody of an action film. I really couldn’t stop smiling at the crazy over the top stunts and cheesy dialogue, it made me feel like I should be watching this at the Hudson Horror Show.  

If you saw the sequel, xXx: State Of The Union (2005), then you would be very confused at the prospect of a third movie with the original star. Diesel’s character is “killed offscreen”, which is the reason why DARIUS STONE (Ice Cube) is recruited as the new xXx “with more attitude”. Well it turns out that he faked his death through unexplained circumstances and has been hiding out in the Dominican Republic, where he very conspicuously continues to engage in attention-grabbing stunts.

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hell yes

xXx: Return Of Xander Cage is nowhere near the level of its predecessors in terms of enjoyability. It doesn’t commit 100% to setting itself up around ridiculous set pieces like the first one, and it doesn’t commit to being serious, albeit a touch hammy, like the second. The film is about the CIA convincing XANDER CAGE to get back in the field and help them retrieve a device with the incredibly original name of “Pandora’s Box” – that has the ability to crash satellites and use them as projectiles after a group of unknown rogue agents steal it. It’s a very familiar action movie premise, particularly evocative of 90s action films, and it plays out like one of the bad ones that belongs 20 years in the past.

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Nina Dobrev is the tech-savy scientist who also can’t help but have insatiable lust for Vin Diesel

Everything else that surrounds Diesel in this movie is boring and relatively forgetful. Cage’s crew is a rehash of modern action tropes and the antagonists are just as bland. Donnie Yen is the only exception to this, as his martial arts choreography is always a delight to watch and his character – the edgy underground DJ/rogue (one) agent – is an injection of needed fun in a movie that relies on familiar stereotypes. They attempt to give the film a much stronger female presence with the additions of Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, and others in various plot sensitive hero or villain roles, but the film is so incredibly misogynistic that you can’t even really appreciate it as much. For some reason there was a need to focus on how much Cage “got it” throughout the entire film. Every picturesque location he goes to he’s either: sleeping with someone, flirting with the most recently introduced female character to establish that they too would sex him, or catching up with a former lover in the hopes of future rekindling. The latter is what motivates the location changes and moves the plot forward, as Cage knows these people from his past and they have information he needs. This movie feels insecure, thinking that Diesel’s age would hurt his appeal so they need to prove he’s still got it by having a scene where several women literally come from nowhere to have an orgy with him.

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Xander (Diesel),  Xiang (Yen), and Serena (Padukone)

With the exception of two incredibly over the top action sequences, xXx: Return Of Xander Cage is a disappointment. Fans might enjoy some of the cameos and seeing Cage back on the big screen, but otherwise this is really no different from a lot of other action films. So don’t bother spending your money on a film with the tagline: kick some ass, get the girl, and try to look dope while doing it.

gbttwostar

@GoodBadTweeters

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