XXX: Return Of Xander Cage – Movie Review

There is a certain kind of guilty pleasure in watching escapist action movies like XXX: Return of Xander Cage. However, those craving intellectual stimulation through a compelling plot and characters are often disappointed. As for those who are willing to adjust their expectations, the experience is, if not rewarding, largely fulfilling with this XXX. But does it work or not, is the question.

The movie starts with a showcase of the movie’s diverse supporting cast hijacking a covert CIA meeting after a satellite is hacked to literally fall from space. The hacking is performed using something called a ‘Pandora’s Box’, which serves as this movie’s MacGuffin. Predictably, Xander Cage, presumed dead, is tracked down and set to the task of finding the people behind it. Of course all is not so simple and as a result, mayhem ensues.

The movie’s cast is one of the biggest highlights as well as its drawbacks. It is filled with newcomers, except for Vin Diesel and the ever-reliable Samuel L. Jackson. Unlike Diesel, however, Jackson’s role is more of an extended cameo. As for the rest of the cast, Donnie Yen is perfectly cast as the antagonist to Diesel. Tony Jaa has minimal dialogue but makes up for it with his trademark muay thay moves in action scenes.

Michael Bisping, UFC fighter is also roped in. His role, however, in the movie is delegated to nothing but punching things very hard. Toni Collette has little to do but does the most with what she has. Sadly, actors Rory McAnn and Kris Wu are wasted in the movie with forced comic material. It’s a shame that the filmmakers had Hound from Game of Thrones but reduced him to nothing but a huge man who loves crashing cars.

However, the remaining cast; all female, makes up for most of these shortcomings. Nina Dobrev’s casting as the techie is enormously refreshing. It is a far cry from the stereotypical routes such characters usually take. Ruby Rose plays the role of expert sniper to perfection. And as for our very own Deepika Padukone, her turn as the female lead in the movie is bound to turn many a head. I felt a sense of pride when the audience cheered themselves hoarse when she appeared on screen. Her chemistry with Ruby is another plus for this movie. Fingers crossed that they make it to the sequel.

All these actors give perfect performances, or rather, performances that are perfect for this movie. However, character motivation is practically non-existent. Early on in the movie, Padukone, Yen and Diesel’s character have a sit down and it is revealed why they do what they do. Without any spoilers, a moment like that would have had weight in the movie’s context. But it is so rushed that one runs the risk of missing it. Not that any layered characters are an expectation but seeing a moment that has so much potential, being drowned out feels like a huge disappointment.

Diesel, of course, is perfectly at home playing this character. You can see it in the over confident drawl his character usually employs while speaking or fighting or flirting or even walking, for that matter. He knows exactly what he is doing and the same can be said of the film as well. Escapist fun is only good as long as it remains fun and does not try to be something it is not – a fact that holds for things other than movies as well. This happens to be a fact that the movie takes very seriously, by not taking itself as such.

As an entity, the movie understands exactly what it is supposed to be and carries forward with all the vigour it should require. As a result, while the plot is paper thin and the characters have zero motivation, the movie feels like a fun ride. The one liners are funny, but not witty. The dialogues do not feel forced, but are downright ridiculous at times. The action is perfect, but does not pay much heed to the laws of Physics.

Fans of the Fast and Furious series know what I am talking about.

This movie is not perfect. Nitpickers will find hundreds of things wrong or inaccurate and critics will probably end up bashing it for the sheer senselessness that it comprises. However, being a Vin Diesel fan and even bigger action movie buff, I found myself ignoring these obvious shortcomings and enjoying the movie. In other words, if you enjoyed the previous movies in the franchise, you will love this one. If you thought they were garbage, you would not feel any different this time either.

Our Verdict: 3/5.

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