xXx: Return of Xander Cage movie review: Deepika, Vin try to save this film but fail

2/5

Before we talk about Deepika Padukone in Vin Diesel-starrer xXx: Return of Xander Cage, who frankly is the only reason why most people in India care about this movie, let's talk about an important distinction.

There have been good films with over-the-top characters or a ridiculous plot. But there is a difference between over-the-top characters and plots and downright stupidity. Having an outlandish plot or some crazy, wild characters does not mean that the filmmaker has the right to abandon logic altogether or make the film as unrealistic as possible.

Keeping this in mind, let's now look at the basic plot of xXx. In the movie, a powerful device called 'Pandora's Box' — which can be used to send any artificial satellite revolving around the earth crashing into the planet to cause deaths — falls into the hands of the bad guys. And it is up to extreme athlete-turned-government spy Xander Cage, played by Diesel, and his allies to recover Pandora's Box and save the day.

Now, there is nothing wrong with the premise of the movie. Better movies have been based on more absurd plots.

Vin Diesel and Deepika Padukone in xXx: Return of Xander Cage. Screenshot from YouTube video

Vin Diesel and Deepika Padukone in xXx: Return of Xander Cage. Screenshot from YouTube video

But what makes xXx seem like a movie made by a thirteen-year-old with some sort of teenage fantasy about mindless and unrealistic action scenes, sex and some cheesy one-liners is the horrible execution of this premise.

And Vin Diesel's character Xander Cage, the super spy, is at the centre of this disaster. He obtains crucial information about his mission by seducing a group of beautiful women and later, when his boss asks him how he got such sensitive information so quickly, says that he had to go 'under cover' to get it. This is the kind of juvenile sex joke that high school kids laugh at when they are new to the concept of sex.

When Cage's boss Jane Marke (played by Toni Collette) offers him the assistance of some tough and experienced soldiers for his mission, Cage throws them off a plane and says he prefers some other teammates.

He then chooses three other people. Two of these include a skilled sniper and an experienced driver, which makes sense because these skills are important for espionage missions. His third choice, out of all characters imaginable, is a talented DJ.

What kind of people should you choose for assistance in a dangerous mission in which fatalities are expected? A tough soldier? A super spy? A brilliant hacker? Nope. According to Xander Cage, the answer is a brash disk jockey called Nicks, played by Kris Wu. There is even a scene in which Nicks uses his groovy tunes to save Cage's life. This would be hilariously apt if xXx was a spoof, which it is not, or at least that's what we're led to believe.

Diesel basically tries to portray that brat with a good heart and quick wit whom we can't help but love. Instead, he ends up playing a downright jerk with lame jokes who makes no sense. For example, in another scene, Cage tries to show off his knowledge about the world by saying that in today's times, there are only rebels and tyrants. When his boss cleverly asks him which one he is, setting up the scene for a powerful dialogue, Cage says, "I'm xXx", which — you guessed it — makes absolutely no sense.

On the other hand, Deepika Padukone and Donnie Yen try to save the film in their own way.

Padukone, who plays Cage's love interest Serena Unger, does the best an actor can do in a film in which a DJ is part of a super spy's team. Her character stands out from the others because of genuinely good acting and dialogue delivery. Unger is also the only character apart from Cage in the film with a hint of a backstory. And it is also a bit refreshing to see Padukone's Indian accent not getting replaced with some fake American accent, something which makes her character look more natural.

Yen plays Xiang, who has many confrontations with Cage in the film. The best action sequences in the movie are because of Yen, with a very well-choreographed melee combat scene between Xiang and some other characters towards the end of the movie which show how skilled Donnie Yen is in martial arts.

But Padukone's charm and Yen's expertise in martial arts are not enough to save this film.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage is a perfect example of filmmakers sacrificing a solid plot, character depth and development and well-thought-out dialogues for grand explosions, guns, punches, kicks, sleazy sex scenes and juvenile one-liners, hoping that is what makes a good action film.

But a good action movie or spy thriller is always much more than the action. Movies like Kingsman: The Secret Service, John Wick and The Raid also have some outlandish elements but are great action movies because apart from the mesmerising melee combat, explosions and gun fu, they focus equally well on the story, characters and the emotions associated with both.

Watching xXx: Return of Xander Cage can only be fun if one is purely interested in stunts and nothing else. Good cinema, though, is much more than mere stunts.


Published Date: Jan 14, 2017 10:30 am | Updated Date: Jan 14, 2017 11:15 am


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