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xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE

SYNOPSIS: Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is left for dead after an incident, though he secretly returns to action for a new, tough assignment with his handler Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson).

Review by Louise Keller:
Kiss ass, get the girl and be cool is the mantra of this popcorn movie that relies on its larger than life star and slew of stunts to make its mark. Short on thrills with action sequences that for the most part feel perfunctory, the return of xXx is a bit of a let down; it might please undemanding fans, but could be so much better. The plot doesn’t really matter (it’s about patriots, rebels, skateboards, swimming pools, tyrants and satellite prototypes). But what does matter, is the way the action is shot: close up with sharp edits, leaving us unaware of where we are or what is happening. But Vin Diesel delivers, rippling muscles, tats and gravelly voice, plus there’s a hip cast that shoots and kicks as though there is no tomorrow.

Best action sequence is the one in which Cage (Vin Diesel) free falls from a plane without a parachute. It is the only time we feel there is risk and something at stake. For the most part, the stunts feel choreographed, as the characters leap onto the roof of speeding trains, cars are tossed nonchalantly into the air and the firepower explodes. The chase sequence in which Diesel rides a motorcycle on skis through the surf fails to generate the excitement it should.

The opening sequence in which Samuel L. Jackson’s Augustus Gibbons begins to recruit heroes for the xXx team sets the scene, when ‘the good, bad, extreme and completely insane’ team up for a new assignment. Too may characters perhaps; it may not be the ideal Hollywood debut for Indian star and model Deepika Padukone, who makes an impression nonetheless in thigh high boots, teeny shorts, bare midriff and attitude. She does not believe in good guys and has mixed ideas about being bad. She is an attractive distraction. Ruby Rose is interesting as Adele Wolff, with partially green hair. She climbs palm trees. And there’s Nina Dobrev as an IT geek whose safe word is ‘cumquat’. Toni Collette is unusually dour as Jane Marke: the one who pulls the strings.

It’s not just that the dialogue is clunky with corny lines like ‘It’s show time’ and ‘Just be where the bullets aren’t’: the whole delivery is clunky, while the music score gallops along frenetically. Director D.J. Caruso must take the rap. Ice Cube’s cameo return towards the end of the film suggests there may be more to come in the franchise. The first xXx (2002) delivered high octane thrills. xXx2: The Next Level (2005) struggled with its storytelling. This latest film has a similar problem. The concept is fine; let’s hope the filmmakers can inject more tension and thrills next time.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE (M)
(US, 2017)

CAST: Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose

PRODUCER: Vin Diesel, Jeff Kirshenbaum, Joe Roth, Samantha Vincent

DIRECTOR: D.J.Caruso

SCRIPT: F. Scott Frazier (based on characters created by Rich Wilkes)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Russell Carpenter

EDITOR: Vince Filippone, Jim Page

MUSIC: Robert Lydecker, Brian Tyler

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jon Billington

RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 19, 2017







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