Big Screen: xXx 3 – The Return of Xander Cage (and Vin Diesel)

January 30th 2017

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One of my favourite moments from the new xXx movie is when Vin Diesel turns to his girlfriend and says: “A regular guy can’t afford to be a regular guy these days.”

What a relatable dude! I, too, like to reflect on the plight of the modern man after I’ve dirt-skied down a mountain and made love to my beautiful Dominican girlfriend.

xXx 3: The Return of Xander Cage is something of a throwback to the early-noughties action franchise, and poses another answer to the oft-asked question: what if extreme sports stars became international spies? Vin Diesel is back to play the eponymous xXx, presumably because Ice Cube (who took over the role in 2005’s xXx: State of the Union) was too busy starring in family comedies with Jonah Hill.

The plot revolves around xXx being pulled out of retirement to retrieve a hacking device called Pandora’s Box. If the name alone isn’t ominous enough for you, you should know that it pulls satellites out of the sky to be used as missiles, and has been stolen by a group of terrorists who also happen to be extreme sportsmen.

As you might expect, the film isn’t breaking any new ground script-wise – in fact, it barely manages to string together a consistent or believable plot – but that’s not why you go to see a movie like xXx.

At this point, Vin Diesel flicks are effectively superhero movies: they exist beyond the limits of reason and physics, and are so filled with deus ex machina moments that the only plausible explanation is that Vin Diesel is actually God.

In this iteration, the filmmakers are clearly trying to replicate the ridiculously successful The Fast and the Furious formula, with xXx assembling an ethnically diverse team who trade snappy quips and act badass. I, for one, am all for it. There’s nothing wrong with making dumb action films, and I like that more of them are showing a spectrum of identities on the screen rather than just washed-up white guys.

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The best part of the film was extreme sports terrorist Xiang, played by martial artist and actor Donnie Yen. His charisma is so appealing that he’s hard not to like, even if we don’t learn anything about him during the course of the film. Yen walks a delicate line; performing incredibly complex martial arts manoeuvres while still managing to make his character seem human and complex.

This surprisingly down-to-earth tone is why I think xXx 3 works. It’s pretty dumb, but when every one-liner is followed by Vin Diesel laughing at his own joke, you can’t help but laugh with him.

I hope it works for the guy. He’s a Dungeons & Dragons nerd who got really buff and now gets to make role-playing his career. That might not be everyone’s dream, but you gotta appreciate the hustle. Check out xXx if you’re looking for something a little bit ridiculous, but also a lot of fun.

 

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