xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

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“The things I do for my country.”

Spy movies used to be rather sterile. Gunfire, conspiracies, mysteries to be solved. I’m mostly referring back to the older Bond films plus the likes of Three Days of the Condor, Patriot Games, Marathon Man. The genre had rules that were fairly set in stone. But it seems like ever since Brian De Palma’s 1996 feature Mission: Impossible took on the Tom Cruise brand of explosive set pieces, other energetic genres have started to leak into the typically psychological narratives. This is what xXx: Return of Xander Cage tries to specialize in, lacking an engaging story but containing a seriously entertaining mix of practical and computer generated stunts. There’s no air traffic control center to this film, and yet it somehow manages to get off the ground for a flight as long as the Wright Brothers’ first takeoff.

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I’ve previously given films negative critiques for feeling totally “unnecessary.” In retrospect, that’s a terrible assessment because by comparison, what would make a picture actively needed? There’s no definitive answer to that question. Movies only exist to tell a story and to entertain and/or engage the viewer. In that regard then, the third film in this franchise only comes close to fulfilling the duties of your typical summer blockbuster entertainment package. Big thrills, big personalities, as empty-headed as Oz’s Scarecrow. But that’s sort of okay, entirely because the movie refines what it knows it’s good at and doesn’t waste a ton of time elsewhere. xXx 3 isn’t particularly great, even if parts are surprisingly well-conceived and executed.

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Breaking down the script or searching for a theme is to render this film as futile. Nothing that happens really matters. None of these people exist in your head past the credits. The start and the end are mere bookends to nearly two hours spent on a laissez-faire playground. It is what it is. Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) returns to his call of duty after time off during the second installment, putting his talents towards serving the xXx special ops program. Some bad guys have a device bringing satellites crashing towards Earth, there’s a fight to stop them, things blow up. There’s no rhyme to this reason. And that’s what makes its middling success all the more magnetic.

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xXx: Return of Xander Cage lives stuck in the middle of a story that’s as engaging as a long distance game of Red Rover. It’s number is called, and director D.J Caruso (deserving of better material. Remember DisturbiaThe man has skill) is tasked with carrying the torch for far too long before breaking the other barrier. As somebody who spends too much time at the grocery, I can’t help but compare this spectacle to the grab-bag buys lining the checkout lane. Lighters, hand sanitizer, gum, a candy bar or Red Bull. xXx: Return of Xander Cage isn’t the type of film you shop around for; it’s picked up right before leaving. It’s not worth the inflated cost either, but it delivers a brief spark of energy while it’s consumed on the treacherous trek from the exit to the car. Just be weary of that impending sugar high, and be ready to leap from this vehicle at the right time.

“Do you want some of this?”

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

One response to “xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

  1. According to nonsensical evidence (Vin Diesel’s prior films, third films in a franchise, jet ski-esque action scenes) I think xXx: Return of Xander Cage will receive a 36% Rotten Tomatoes critic rating.
    I want to start off by saying that I am rooting for xXx: Return of Xander Cage to succeed because the world needs a superhero who dirt bikes on top of water and skis down heavily forested mountains. Watch the trailer and you will be hoping the movie is a lot of fun as well.
    The following prediction is a collection of random scores that may or may not predict the RT critical score. I’m putting my reputation on the line and this prediction could make or break me.
    I’m predicting xXx: Return of Xander Cage will have a 36% score as of Monday 01/23. Here is how I came to that conclusion
    I averaged the RT scores of xXx, The Last Witch Hunter, Babylon A.D., A Man Apart, Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick and Riddick and 32.5% was the result. The most interesting aspect of the data is that Riddick had the highest score of the bunch. Its 58% RT score outperformed Pitch Black (57%) and XXX (48%). This could mean good news for xXx: Return of Xander Cage.
    Director DJ. Caruso’s wide release films have an average RT rating of 28.6%. Taking Lives, Two for the Money, Disturbia, Eagle Eye, The Disappointments Room and I Am Number Four did not do well with critics. The only fresh rating belonged to Disturbia and its 69%
    Since the new xXx film features an insane Dirt bike as a jet ski action scene I decided to add in my calculations for jet ski action scenes into the mix. Movies that feature jet ski action scenes have an average 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
    The average rating of third films in recent/similar action films have an average RT rating of 33.1%. Transporter 3, The Expendables 3, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Blade: Trinity, Bourne Ultimatum, Rush Hour 3, Taken 3 and Tokyo Drift were aided greatly by the 93% of The Bourne Ultimatum. The average of these four scores is 30.8%. Normally, I would just use this score as my prediction. However, since Riddick was the third film and had a 58% RT score I’m gonna add another five points to the overall score. Thus, the final product is 35.8% (rounded to 36%) which is higher than the average of Vin’s other action films that he headlined.
    Random data says that xXx: Return of Xander Cage will not do well with critics. Let’s hope I’m wrong and it wins Vin his first Oscar.

    Like

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