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  • Jared Huizenga

xXx: Last Action Zero

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. That, however, doesn’t and shouldn’t apply to long-forgotten movie franchises that virtually nobody was clamoring to be revived.


Having said that, “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” blasts its way into theaters this weekend to remind us of what we haven’t been missing since 2002’s “xXx” and its 2005 follow-up “xXx: State of the Union” failed to spawn a beloved and profitable action franchise.

Vin Diesel as Xander Cage in ‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’ by Paramount Pictures and Revolution Studios. (Photo by George Kraychyk. ©2016 Paramount Pictures and Revolution Studios. All rights reserved.)

The third installment of the long-dormant franchise sees our original X-Games enthusiast/reluctant anti-hero Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) returning to the fold, 15 years after he was reported killed in action.


After 15 years of seclusion, and keeping his life as extreme as a late-’90s Mountain Dew commercial, the original xXx is lured out of hiding and back into service by NSA agent Jane Marke (Toni Collette). The mission? Avenge the murder of his frenemy/recruiter, Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), and to recover a stolen tech gadget – Pandora’s Box – that can weaponize every satellite in Earth’s orbit by bringing it crashing down as a supersonic fireball.


Never one to play by the rules, Xander eschews the elite team of soldiers sent to be his backup in favor of his own team of extreme team – sharpshooter Adele Yusef (Ruby Rose), psychopathic stuntman Tennyson Torch (Rory McCann), tech guru Becky Clearidge (Nin Dobrev) and all around good guy Nicks (Kris Wu).

As the unknown madman threatens the world with Pandora’s Box, Team Xander must also deal with an equally – or possibly even more extreme – team that has their own plans for the weapon.

Ruby Rose as Adele Yusef in ‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’ by Paramount Pictures and Revolution Studios. (Photo by Michael Gibson. ©2016 Paramount Pictures and Revolution Studios. All rights reserved.)

I think we all know that there’s a ton of success (at least financially) that can achieved through the creation of mindless action fodder – see: Bay, Michael – but it has to be done in the right way (i.e. “Last Action Hero”) … “Return of Xander Cage” doesn’t do it the right way.


When asked my initial thoughts on the movie, I was actually at a loss for words. The best thing I could come up with was “it’s almost a parody of a parody.” At first, I wasn’t even sure what I meant, so I gave it some more thought. What I came up with was if somewhere along the line there was a “Not Another Action Movie” made, director D.J. Caruso and screenwriter F. Scott Frazier sat down and said, “you know, that wasn’t ridiculous enough – we need to make a movie making fun of that movie for making fun of an already ridiculous genre.”


The lone positive aspect of this movie is that it's self-aware.


It knows it's cheesy, it knows it's filled with awful dialogue, laughable CGI and dreadful acting. It knows it's over-the-top, it knows it's ridiculous and it knows it's little more than a 107-minute fight scene broken up by cringeworthy one-liners. Most importantly, it seemingly knows it's bad. It knows all of these things and it embraces them. And for that I commend Diesel, Caruso, et al.


Unfortunately, self-awareness does not a great movie make.


If you’re looking for some extreme weekend fun, chug a bunch of energy drinks, toss the safety equipment aside and drive a moped into a brick wall … you’ll be better off in the end.


1/2 of ★★★★★

© 2021 by Man Versus Movie

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