Movie Review: XXX: The Return of Xander Cage

I was 10 when the first XXX came out and even then I thought it looked dumb. I was a pretty weird kid that loved Cowboy Bebop, but thought Last Airbender was terrible because of the animation. I had the same issue with movies where I enjoyed the grotesque, violence, and lots of gore. XXX did not fit my criteria and passed from memory shortly thereafter, ignorant to the seemingly immortal and eternally stunning Asia Argento in the cast. The last time it came to mind was when I saw the trailer for Return of Xander Cage. Now at 24 years old, how does this new installment appeal to my evolved sensibilities?

When a team of daredevils steal a device that can direct satellites out of orbit at will, the CIA tasks Xander Cage, played by Vin Diesel, to get it back. To help in the mission he recruits his own band of maniacs.

If the first XXX is exactly like Return of Xander, then I regret skipping it. This is by far the dumbest bullshit I have ever seen and I loved it. It was like watching a Cannon Group feature 23 years after the studio went under. I imagine the elderly Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus snorted their weight in cocaine, were inspired to rip off Fast and Furious, and came up with the third XXX.

There is a strong sense of anachronism throughout. Return of Xander is from a time in which beauty shots of women, giant set-pieces, and violent action were the norm. The problem is this should not be the case. I should not feel nostalgia in a new film because that is the only way you can do action properly. We have become so used to shaky-cam and seriousness in contemporary action trash that it has become the norm. It used to be if you wanted the good stuff, you looked to the past. In the third XXX, it feels like you are watching an update of Commando, Invasion USA, and Predator, but you do not lose what made them incredible.

Return of Xander certainly feels like a movie from long ago, but it has a surprising amount of self-awareness. It knows full well what it is and revels in the moment. The characters are not as fleshed out, but they do not need to be. Everyone involved loves what they are doing and it comes through in their performances. The action tries to be as extreme as possible with a game of hot potato involving grenades transitioning into a bike chase, a multi-layer race, and then two fistfights in a falling airplane. The film is utterly stupid, but it is the kind of stupid you can enjoy without the movie looking down on you like Transformers.

Complaining about logic in something like Return of Xander is pointless, but my brain will not allow this go unmentioned. There is a scene where Russian Special Forces drop into a party (for some reason), but the helicopters they flew in on are not troop carriers. Hinds can carry people and the choppers in the film look like Ka-52s. Also, the weapons used by the guys were not consistent. Some had different variants of AKs and another used what looked like a PDW. Lastly, they went about crashing the party the wrong way. From what I know Russian Special Forces surround a location, ask those involved to surrender, and wait a bit before saturating the place in gunfire.

That is what it is like being me. I see things that ultimately do not mean anything, but complain about them anyway. There is a lot you can say about this movie (especially the Chinese thing that I do not want to get into), but it is not worth the trouble. You are not meant to take it seriously. The actors did not either. Diesel was back in his element, Ruby Rose showed great potential as an action star, and Donnie Yen stole the show. Just have fun and do not worry about trying to challenge your intellect.

As a “Fuck You, It’s January” film, one that is well past the point of relevance, The Return of Xander Cage is great. It is the epitome of self-aware action, a callback to a bygone age where the genre was about being as stupid as the budget would allow. That being said, I recommend it as a rental. This movie is not for everyone, but it is one of a kind in regards to contemporary action.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s