The third installment of xXx sees the return of Vin Diesel as Xander Cage, after his absence from the flopped second film, State of Union, in 2005. That might be why it took 12 years until they release a sequel. Luckily, this is a satisfying return to form that should please action fans.
The plot seems deceptively simple at first. After the death of the mentor figure NSA Agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), Xander Cage came out of hiding to assist Jane Marke (Toni Collette) in acquiring a powerful weapon nicknamed “Pandora’s Box” (which has been the name of so many fictional weapons) stolen by a villainous team led by Xiang (Donnie Yen). There are interesting twists along the way. They do not prevent the story from having a cliche action plot, but at least they add some spice.
There are some comedies here and there to lighten the mood, too. Jackson’s scenes are few but funny, especially his opening scene with the footballer Neymar Jr., who plays himself. Another source of laughter is Nina Dobrev’s comedic performance as the IT girl Becky, who serves funny one-liners effortlessly from the moment she appears.
The extreme sports element might not be extensive, but are fun to watch, especially our introduction to Xander Cage where he was skiing in a dense forest, transitioning to a skateboard tricks soon after. Diesel and Yen also had a fun motorcycle race, with secret skis that enable them to ride the waves on motorcycles. There are numerous satisfying action sequences for everyone to enjoy from car chases and skydiving to guns brawl and hand-to-hand combat. The actions may not make sense, but we do not need them to as long as they are fun.
Although Vin Diesel is undoubtedly a bonafide action star, Donnie Yen is certainly most impressive in the action sequences. His first scenes as he jumped from the opposite building in order to steal the Pandora’s Box are jaw-dropping and memorable. His acting is decent, although the plot does not demand much to begin with. If anything, it shows that Donnie Yen is perfectly capable of being a villain if needed.
While it is appreciated that there are plenty of diverse, distinct characters, they are underdeveloped. Serena Unger (Deepika Padukone) is the only one given a backstory. Even hers is a thin one that feels a bit forced. The rest have unclear motivations for doing what they did. Harvard “Nicks” Zhou (Kris Wu), feels most out of place as. Who would have guessed that his DJ skills fail to contribute to the dangerous missions?
The acting of the cast is rather uneven. Most of the key players act well, including Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, and Toni Collette. Vin Diesel and Donnie Yen play off each other well. Deepika Padukone seems to struggle with her lines and acting. Her weakness is most obvious in her scenes with Diesel, which often looks uncomfortably awkward. Other cast members do not have much to work with, but they give satisfactory performance.
The cinematography is serviceable, typical of a fast-paced action film. What matters is they were able to capture the actions well, which they did. The occasional rock music in the soundtrack works, too, alongside the typical action movie soundtrack.
‘xXx: The Return of Xander Cage’ is an old-fashioned, high-adrenaline action film that should please its target audience. It is nothing sophisticated with barely any character development or grand moral message. But it delivers cool action scenes that will entertain action movie fans.
Many action films these days are trying too hard to be complex that this film’s approach feels refreshing. Its straightforward style brings to mind the simple actions films of the 90’s. Sometimes that is all we need.By Freddy (InCinemas.sg)