(NEW YORK) -- Vin Diesel continues his climb back to past glory, reprising another role that helped turn him into, at one time, the world’s biggest action star. Fifteen years after first playing Xander Cage in xXx, he reprises his role as X-games-type super-agent Xander Cage.
Only this time, Cage is no longer a government agent. Instead, presumed dead, he’s stealing transmitters from tall towers, skiing down a mountain of shrubbery, then skateboarding the rest of of the way while being chased by soldiers, all in an effort to allow a small village to be able to watch a soccer game. He’s a man of and for the people!
But the government comes calling when a group of lethal assassins, with a skill set not seen since Xander and his crew last worked for the government, infiltrates a top-secret meeting in an impossible-kind-of way, stealing a device that can activate any one of the thousands of orbiting satellites and turn them, essentially, into guided missiles, pointed at Earth.
Xander’s mission is to find the crew that hit the meeting and retrieve the device. Lending some acting gravitas to the film is Toni Collette, who plays the CIA agent in charge of getting Xander back in the game and, essentially, running the mission. She also introduces Xander to his team, which consists of military operatives, including a solider played by former NFL great Tony Gonzalez. This doesn’t sit well with Xander , who naturally replaces the soldiers with his own team.
This could’ve been a predictable story about Xander’s crew taking on a crew of equal, if not superior, skill. Instead, writers Rich Wilkes and F. Scott Frazier and director D.J. Caruso do an admirable job of kicking the story up a notch to something that is, at the very least, less predictable and mildly interesting. Caruso also does a nice job of using the action as a character in itself, displaying a deft hand with the thrilling and creative action sequences.
Make no mistake, though: like the first two films in this franchise, this one’s replete with fits of utter stupidity, as well as being exploitative and misogynist. We see plenty of handsome, chiseled men, but the camera doesn’t linger on their physiques nearly as much as it does on those of Deepika Padukone, Hermione Corfield, Ruby Rose and Nina Dobrev. These women are also formidable and smart, but apparently not enough to avoid the gratuitous way they’re depicted.
But that’s exactly what the audience for xXx: The Return of Xander Cage wants, and that’s exactly what they get: a stylish, fun, sexy movie that simultaneously manages to be exploitative and kind of dumb.
Three out of five stars.
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