Thursday, 19 January 2017

xXx: Return of Xander Cage ... XXX is ZZZZZssss

VIN Diesel wants to recreate he chemistry of his Fast and Furious franchise in director D.J. Caruso's xXx: Return of Xander Cage. He's got the multiracial cast, pretty babes in bikinis and preposterous action scenes, but considering that I rated the last Fast film low, it's not surprising that his reprisal of the role he first made famous in xXx (2002) falls flat.
   Diesel is 50 this year, so watching his character, extreme athlete Xander Cage, move like a hyena is hard to believe.
   But we'll suspend our disbelief and enjoy the sight of burly Cage skating downhill on a skateboard, while being cheered on by Brazilian villagers. Cage is supposed to be incognito on a self-imposed exile, but he's willing to risk his life and expose his lifestyle just so he can help poor people. What a great guy.
   He's also got extrasensory perception that would put Sherlock Holmes to shame. In one scene, which is about the CIA wanting him to come out of exile and help it track down someone, he deduces that things are not what they look like. To me, that was the film's best and only intelligent scene because Cage uses his brains instead of his strength.
    The Fast films and the Mission: Impossible films share one thing in common: they have a good baddie. But xXx: Return of Xander Cage's baddie is lame and won't scare anyone. In fact, he's absent for most of the film.
Vin Diesel, Donny Yuen and Deepika Padukone talk shop.
   His threat of using a so-called Pandora's Box to make a satellite crash every 24 hours is the motivation for Cage and his hastily-assembled team to move quickly. One satellite crash at the start of the film takes out an important person.
    Xiang (martial arts exponent Donny Yuen, recently seen in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and pretty Serena Unger (Bollywood star Deepika Padukone) work together to get their hands on Pandora's Box, but both have conflicting decisions on what to do with it.
   Xiang puts his martial arts to good use, while Serena speaks with a thick Indian accent, even though her last name is Unger. It's as thick as that of  Diego Luna in Rogue One.
  The CIA, represented by blonde Jane Marke (Tony Collette), is keen on hiring Cage: Marke says: "We need someone who can move like them, fight like them. It's time to be a patriot."
  Cage replies: "There are no more patriots, just rebels and tyrants."
   He sees himself as an unorthodox soldier, willing to bend the rules to get the job done. He's also willing to help the downtrodden (Brazilian villagers), so this must make his brand of justice palatable to all in the world. Even if the CIA is wary of his style, it knows that someone like him will catch the bad guys off-guard.
  Of course, it helps if he's a babe magnet, with most women throwing themselves at him.
Deepika and Ruby Rose have got each other's back.
  Sexism abounds in this film, with the camera zooming in on a woman in a bikini stepping out of a pool. The camera happily focuses on women's gyrating hips at a party.
   Deepika also gets to satiate the male gaze, with the camera caressing her figure from bottom to top in soft and seductive night light.
  But there's a saving grace at the end when Serena and sharpshooter Adele (Ruby Rose) have got each other's back and show us that women can defend themselves perfectly well without the help of men.
  Nevertheless, the film's action is mundane and nonsensical. Bringing down satellites may seem menacing, but I'm certain jet fighters can get to them before they inflict damage on Earth. Acting is not a prerequisite in this film, so the actors won't register with audiences. It just seems like a waste of time and money.

2 out of 5 stars
 
 
 
 
Vin and Deepika get close.
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 

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