XXX: Return of Xander Cage
dir DJ Caruso
scr F Scott Frazier
prd Joe Roth, Vin Diesel, Jeff Kirschenbaum, Samantha Vincent
with Vin Diesel, Toni Collette, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Michael Bisping, Samuel L Jackson, Ice Cube
release US/UK 20.Jan.17
17/US Paramount 1h47
XXX: Return of Xander Cage
Maximum muscle: Diesel and Padukone

collette yen jackson
XXX (2002) XXX 2 (2005)
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
XXX: Return of Xander Cage After the bombast of the 2002 original and the empty chaos of 2005's sequel, it was safe to think that this series was safely terminated. But no, Vin Diesel resurrects his muscleman extreme-sporting hero for what he clearly hopes will become another noisy, audience-bludgeoning franchise. Thankfully, there are plenty of tongues in cheeks this time around, making the film almost watchable even if it's utter nonsense.

Obviously, Xander (Diesel) isn't dead after all, drawn back into the fray, complete with a magically redesigned signature neck tattoo, by new CIA black ops director Marke (Collette). Apparently, villains are using falling satellites to cause terror around the world. Working with sexy-geeky Becky (Dobrev), X assembles his old pals (new costars Wu, Rose and McCann) to take on a team of equally physical baddies (Yen, Padukone, Jaa and Bisping). As liaisons shift, the extreme-sports action moves from the Dominican Republic to London to the Philippines and back to Detroit.

Basically, this is a string of fantastically ridiculous action sequences that violate every known law of physics. It's easy to tell who the heroes are, because they aren't injured by falls from high places, well-aimed punches or bullets. The women are under-dressed for the action, and all of them flirt constantly with Diesel as if contractually obligated to do so. The men posture restlessly, flexing their oiled-up muscles before grabbing an always-handy big gun and blowing everything up.

No, there isn't much actual acting on-hand. The cast members basically just smirk at each other while grunting information to just about link set-pieces together. But there's no point in trying to follow the story, because it's ludicrous. And the filmmakers' masterstroke was to cast the fabulous Collette and then let her chomp on the scenery like there's no tomorrow. Because with the fate of the world in the hands of these meatheads, there might not be.

Thankfully, director Caruso seems aware how stupid this is. He constantly winks at the audience with small gags, while letting the cast inject wry humour into every scene. This may completely undermine the tension, but then the action is so over-staged and choppily edited that it's not exactly adrenaline-pumping. There are some hilariously over-the-top stunts, a gloriously insane weightless fight and of course lots of pointless explosions. But the movie's most shameless touch is that never tries to hide the fact that it was only created to relaunch a franchise.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 18.Jan.17

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