FILM REVIEW – ‘XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE'(2017)

Friday, January 20, 2017 marked the official theatrical release of xXx: Return of Xander Cage, the third film in the xXx franchise, and first since 2005’s xXx: State of the Union. Nerd Nation Magazine was in attendance for the early press screening Wednesday, January 18, 2017 courtesy of Paramount Pictures, Allied Marketing, and Regal Cinemas.

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On and off for the two decades between 1995 and 2015, America, and with it a good chunk of the western world had been in the grips of an incredible craze. This is nothing new, as cultural trends come and go, between the early fascination of jazz in the early 20th century, insanely cinched waists in the waning years of the 18th century, Beatle-mania, and even as recently as that brief period in the late 90’s when America convinced itself that swing was going to come back in a big way. But more prevalent and accepted was the fascination with things becoming “Xtreme” with little prompt of necessity. Nothing has been safe, ever since we realized that skateboards could do super cool things, we’ve been taking everything to it’s extreme. Soft drinks, corn chips, air travel, even knitting has been subjected to the neon green haze that is “Xtreme” culture.

The first xXx movie, the world’s introduction to Vin Diesel‘s 15-year-long war on sleeves, was a byproduct of this craze. And now it has culminated in its 3rd installment, xXx: Return of Xander Cage. Its goal is simply stated, and is introduced in plain dialogue in the movies; to make an action movie based on Xtreme Sports (paraphrased from Samuel L. Jackson’s role in the film “Kick some ass…and look dope while you do it”) instead of any formal martial arts or just plain-old boring methods of killing and making things go boom.

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(image courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

This latest installment succeeds here, sure it’s done away with the bright sports drink haze in favor of a more modern brown grittiness that can’t be scrubbed off of today’s films. And there’s still a good amount of conventional, less extreme styles of violence, but none of this stops the action from taking whatever unnecessary kickflips and freefall as it damn well pleases. This is after all the thesis behind the films and it certainly couldn’t call itself a success if it didn’t accomplish this. However the stunts are not the entirety of the film and eventually we must stop and pay homage to the fact that this is not just a film about badasses being badass, but the story of badasses being badass.

Specifically, this is the story of Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) the titular ‘triple x,’ living repository of discarded James Bond quips, and his mission to stop an evil group of hackers from dropping satellites on world cities. It’s through this that the movie touches on important themes of the day; cyber security, terrorism, global policing, and the oft-ignored threat of space debris. It touches on these themes but doesn’t explore any of them, because this movie isn’t about those things, it’s about how awesome it would be to ride a dirt bike over open water. Even the traditional role of the antagonist can’t stand in the way of Mr. X’s inability to hold still for too long, and the villain role changes hands so many times that the idea of there being one becomes secondary to the fact that 3X and friends have chosen a direction and no obstacle; be it thousands of innocent deaths, Detroit rush hour traffic, or the CIA/NSA (who are completely interchangeable in the story) is too great to be parkoured over.

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(image courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

xXx: the Return of the X-games… er, I mean Xander Cage, is a high octane adrenaline fueled ride that even stands as a solid look at the future of Hollywood. Sporting a massive bumper for the Shangai film studio that helped produce it as well as a large and diverse cast including popular Chinese action stars (Donnie Yen, Kris Wu, and Tony Jaa) as well as a Bollywood starlet (Deepika Padukone) alongside it’s radical cast of western badasses we’d expect to find. Vin Diesel is a known and cherished semi-secret nerd in Hollywood, and his Executive Producer status definitely does this movie credit with the inclusion of actors from admittedly nerdier movies and shows (including Rory “The Hound” McCann of Game of Thrones fame, and the patron saint of Tumblr culture, Orange is the New Black’s Ruby Rose). For this, we owe him praise, that with this fantastic cast from the far flung reaches of the world and pop culture; every member of the XXX ass-kicking agency gets a good piece of the action. Hell, it is the in the author’s humble opinion that the sleeveless one himself clearly didn’t hog all the spotlight, reserving the best fight scene in the whole for Donnie Yen. Though some of the cast may seem underutilized at times considering the wealth of talent and skills present, everyone gets a decent treatment considering the source material.

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(image courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

So while some blockbuster films have been more subtle about reaching out to the international audiences, and others have been Transformers, in xXx: Return of Xtreme Sportswear Marketing we have a movie that, in a very real way is definitively made to appeal to audiences worldwide instead of simply the American market and makes little pretense about it save for it being entirely in English (and some broken Spanish spoken by Vin Diesel himself.) We could expect more movies in the future to look a lot like xXx, albeit not as dope.

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(image courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

The Bottom Line:
Overall (with the blatant sarcasm of this entire article aside), xXx: Return of Xander Cage is, as Nerd Nation editor Dave Harlequin put it, “the cinematic equivalent of a 1988 Ultimate Warrior promo in old WWF, soaked in Monster Energy Drink, and wrapped up neatly in a bow made of bedazzled Ed Hardy jeans. It’s loud, boisterous, nonsensical, ultimately meaningless, and more than a little ridiculous.” That’s okay if that’s what you’re into, but if you’re one of our beloved readers here at Nerd Nation, I can almost assure you this movie probably isn’t for you, as you likely don’t own nearly enough Tapout t-shirts, Limp Bizkit CDs, or dirtbike jetskis to match the very obvious target audience this one was going for. That said, I am ultimately positive about the movie, I just can’t actually say it’s any good. Like at all. – 3.8/10

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-Scott Anthony Wittie
Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine
@Scott_Wittie

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2 thoughts on “FILM REVIEW – ‘XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE'(2017)

  1. I couldn’t stop laughing at this article. I love it when you guys review good films… but I love it even more when you review BAD ones! hahahahaha

    Liked by 1 person

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