Let's be honest.
If you're going to find yourself in the audience for the third installation in the xXx films, and many of you are, then it's a fairly safe bet that you're not particularly concerned about immersing yourself in a deep and meaningful story. There's a pretty good chance that you couldn't care less about the quality of Vin Diesel's acting or the film's continuity or, for that matter, whether or not the film makes a lick of sense.
Let's be honest. It just plain doesn't matter.
If you're going to find yourself in the audience for xXx: Return of Xander Cage, what you really care about more than anything is the action. You want to see the good guys win. You want to see the bad guys lose. You want to see Vin Diesel flash that smile and mumble those words despite the fact that you'll likely only understand about half of them.
None of that really matters.
However, for a guy like me, xXx: Return of Xander Cage presents a real dilemma. This is not because I'm a film critic, though that certainly doesn't help matters a whole lot. The real problem is, quite simply, that I do, in fact, prefer a film that allows me to immerse myself in a meaningful or thought-provoking or funny or suspenseful or simply semi-coherent story. I do, in fact, care about the quality of Vin Diesel's one note would be generous brand of acting. I care about continuity and cohesiveness and I even care about the actual effectiveness of action sequences.
These things matter to me.
You don't need to have seen the first two xXx films to jump in here. Director D.J. Caruso (I Am Number Four) takes care of that rather quickly, though it's about as rudimentary as the rest of the film. The truth is that you needn't know how to spell, tie your own shoes or even wipe yourself before checking into the movie theater to catch xXx: Return of Xander Cage.
Okay. Okay. I'll stop. That was particularly mean. Besides, I know more than a few people who aren't particularly skilled at wiping themselves who are smart enough to avoid this drivel.
xXx: Return of Xander Cage brings Vin Diesel back into the fold. Diesel starred in the original film before turning fast and furious toward another far more lucrative and entertaining franchise. Ice Cube's appearance in the second film in the series was slightly more entertaining than the original film yet turned out abysmal box-office numbers.
Of course, in Hollywood no one is really did when there's lucrative dollars to be found. So, eleven years after the second film we're back with Xander Cage, a mysterious device called Pandora's Box that can weaponize satellites, and a group of baddies that must be stopped once they get their hands on it by Vin Diesel's group of goodies.
No, silly. Not Ciara's "Goodies."
xXx: Return of Xander Cage is cast, with a couple notable exceptions, by largely Asian celebs guaranteed to help the film do major overseas bank for the largely China-based financing of the project. This isn't a particularly bad decision, though the cast will be largely unfamiliar to American moviegoers and Caruso doesn't really do much to help them stand out.
K-Pop star Kris Wu has the most fun here. As an added bonus, Wu's English is actually far more understandable than Diesel's beef jerky linguistics. The film also features Bollywood's Deepika Padukone along with Thai action star Tony Jaa, the latter being a fairly familiar face in American action flicks. Diesel's team in the film is comprised of Ruby Rose's Adele, not the singer, Rory McCann's Tennyson, the aforementioned Wu and a couple other folks going head-on against the likes of Donnie Yen.
Of course, again, it must be stressed that xXx: Return of Xander Cage isn't really reliant on story or starpower or acting or anything rational.
It's an action film. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Okay, maybe a little bit less.
If you're a Vin Diesel fan, then there's likely enough action and low-grade humor to make xXx: Return of Xander Cage worth a glimpse. For most, xXx: Return of Xander Cage will be a mindless couple of hours that will be instantly forgotten once the theater lights go up.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic