xXx: Return of Xander Cage review – unintentionally the funniest movie this year


Watching xXx: Return of Xander Cage is a surreal experience. It’s a fever dream of explosions, barely dressed women, guns and bravado that, above all else, manages to be hysterically funny. But not on purpose.

If you’ve never heard of the xXx franchise and you’re wondering why we’re now reviewing porn, we have a fun little trip to the early 2000’s prepared for you. The original was a 2002 film that was very much a product of its time. Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) played an adrenaline junky recruited by the NSA by Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to stop some bad guys.

The (stupid) reason for this was that the government thought Xander’s street smarts were somehow more valuable than that of a soldier’s and the “Triple X” programme was setup to use Xander as an expendable asset.  There was then a second movie where Vin Diesel was replaced with Ice Cube, but it’s not worth mentioning.

And here we are, fifteen years later where, Samuel L. Jackson’s character is supposedly killed by a terrorist machine that can make satellites fall from the sky like guided missiles. The US government captures this machine, and then subsequently loses it to a team of ragtag fighters lead by Xiang (Donnie Yen).

Advert

The government of the world’s biggest army and spy network makes the logical conclusion that only Xander Cage, who “can move like them” can get the machine back, and we’re set up for another movie.

From this film’s first scene, you know you’re going to be in for a almost unbelievable feat of movie making absurdity. Augustus Gibbons is trying to induct a new athlete into the Triple X programme by way of retelling a story of skaters in the 1970’s California drought changing the world by pulling off novel tricks in empty swimming pools.

After being treated to a callout card stating what song this character likes to sing at karaoke (you know, that thing Suicide Squad ruined), we see who Augustus is interviewing. Now, in what we can only assume to be pandering to a European audience, the athlete is footballer Neymar Jr., who is playing himself.

A thief then breaks into the store with a shotgun and Neymar stops him by, wait for it, using a napkin dispenser as a football and kicking the piece of metal into the thief’s head. Samuel L. Jackson spends a few too many seconds screaming “GOOOOOAAAAALLL” and then a satellite hits the pair of them.

If that sounds disjointed, laughable and, most of all, batshit crazy, welcome to xXx: Return of Xander Cage. Please buckle in for the next 107 minutes.

After tracking Xander down, the US government briefs him and sets him on his merry way. Shortly thereafter we’re introduced to the rest of the cast. After throwing his assigned squad of actual soldiers out of an airplane, Xander recruits three old friends to help him on his mission. There’s Adele Wolff (Ruby Rose) a sniper, Tennyson (Rory McCann) who crashes into things with cars and Nicks Zhou (Kris Wu) who is a DJ.

Advert

We’re not kidding, all that character does is play music. Don’t get us wrong, we’re all for popularising the Bard class from Dungeons & Dragons, but we almost fell off of our seats when they tried to make this character’s ability to press play in iTunes looks like something that would come in handle in a gun fight. Oh, and the Tennyson character takes a selfie after flipping a van and that’s the extent of his talent.

Every other character we haven’t mentioned is a similarly stupid, one sided cardboard cutout. They’re mostly unassuming save for Toni Collette as the CSI agent Jane Marke. Her performance was shocking. We can’t quite recall the last time we saw someone literally roll their eyes and be so annoying while doing it. She turns out to be the big bad here, even though it takes most of the movie for that to happen and we have to be tortured with every scene she’s in.

With all the boring charters in place the real plot can set off as it wildly jumps around the world in a three-way fight between Vin Diesel’s set of misfits, Donnie Yen’s set of misfits, and the US government. The plot details aren’t important beyond being the framework for action set pieces and “surprising” change of allegiance between each character.

What is important is the ham-handed way the film handles all of this. Every “funny” scene is awkward and goes on for far too long, while every serious scene and action sequence is only good for a laugh.

Advert

These characters are written so poorly that they come off as Looney Tunes-esque caricatures bumbling their way through life. The action makes you laugh not because of how over the top it is or how implausible everything is, but because there’s never any real sense of tension.

You know no one important is going to die or actually get hurt, and they never do. So you’re watching a power fantasy. Oh, and the physics of the action are less grounded than a poorly made videogame, which only makes everything funnier.

All that being said, watching this movie is a guilty pleasure. It flies by in a haze of laughing fits brought on by the insanity on the screen, and you’re left watching the credits wondering if you just had a bad trip.

Giving this movie a rating is difficult. As a film, it’s terrible. The performances are all campy and it’s too ludicrous to entertain as a story. But, as an entertainment product, it’s unparalleled. Get some friends together, maybe get drunk, and pay to see this movie in theatres. We understand that many will want to leave after 15 minutes, not being able to see the funny in the mess of light and sound, but, for everyone else, it will be an amazing night out.

Watching xXx: Return of Xander Cage is a surreal experience. It's a fever dream of explosions, barely dressed women, guns and bravado that, above all else, manages to be hysterically funny. But not on purpose. If you've never heard of the xXx franchise and you're wondering why we're now reviewing porn, we have a fun little trip to the early 2000's prepared for you. The original was a 2002 film that was very much a product of its time. Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) played an adrenaline junky recruited by the NSA by Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to stop some bad guys. The (stupid) reason for this was that the government thought Xander's street smarts were somehow more valuable than that of a soldier's and the "Triple X" programme was setup to use Xander as an expendable asset.  There was then a second movie where Vin Diesel was replaced with Ice Cube, but it's not worth mentioning. And here we are, fifteen years later where, Samuel L. Jackson's character is supposedly killed by a terrorist machine that can make satellites fall from the sky like guided missiles. The US government captures this machine, and then subsequently loses it to a team of ragtag fighters lead by Xiang (Donnie Yen). The government of the world's biggest army and spy network makes the logical conclusion that only Xander Cage, who "can move like them" can get the machine back, and we're set up for another movie. From this film's first scene, you know you're going to be in for a almost unbelievable feat of movie making absurdity. Augustus Gibbons is trying to induct a new athlete into the Triple X programme by way of retelling a story of skaters in the 1970's California drought changing the world by pulling off novel tricks in empty swimming pools. After being treated to a callout card stating what song this character likes to sing at karaoke (you know, that thing Suicide Squad ruined), we see who Augustus is interviewing. Now, in what we can only assume to be pandering to a European audience, the athlete is footballer Neymar Jr., who is playing himself. A thief then breaks into the store with a shotgun and Neymar stops him by, wait for it, using a napkin dispenser as a football and kicking the piece of metal into the thief's head. Samuel L. Jackson spends a few too many seconds screaming "GOOOOOAAAAALLL" and then a satellite hits the pair of them. If that sounds disjointed, laughable and, most of all, batshit crazy, welcome to xXx: Return of Xander Cage. Please buckle in for the next 107 minutes. After tracking Xander down, the US government briefs him and sets him on his merry way. Shortly thereafter we're introduced to the rest of the cast. After throwing his assigned squad of actual soldiers out of an airplane, Xander recruits three old friends to help him on his mission. There's Adele Wolff (Ruby Rose) a sniper, Tennyson (Rory McCann) who crashes into things with cars and Nicks Zhou (Kris Wu) who is a DJ. We're not kidding, all that character…

Conclusion

Combined score - 5

5

Fever dream funny

A homunculus of a movie plagued with technical and artistic problems that is untouchable in the humour created by its incompetence.

User Rating: 1.25 ( 3 votes)
5

Join the conversation

Advert