12-18 May 2017 #858

xXx: Return of Xander Cage

The plot of the film is so silly it is not worth a summary, yet the film boasts an astonishing cast of international renown
Sophia Pande

I am the first to admit that I watch everything: aside from the overtly masculine dude-oriented comedies, I can usually stomach almost every genre. That being said, this year’s xXx: Return of Xander Cage, the third instalment of a deeply silly, but kind of enjoyable franchise, was too much even for my lowered expectations.

Part of the reason why the xXx franchise has done so well is the inexplicable charisma of Vin Diesel, the extraordinary stage name of 49-year-old American Mark Sinclair, who has made his name on the Riddick, xXx, and The Fast and the Furious (listed in order of fame) franchises. Unfortunately, even Diesel’s significant screen presence cannot save this ridiculously trite film, which attempts to emulate the elements that have made The Fast and the Furious films so successful, namely the jaw-dropping, frankly unbelievable, but highly entertaining action sequences, the multiculturalism, the strong gender equality in casting, and a riotous, unabashedly tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, all tied together by Diesel’s leading character.

Trained as a theatre actor from a young age, Diesel is much more talented than one might guess from his chosen niche as macho action hero, and it is painful to see this very likeable protagonist flounder in such an ill-written, sloppily directed film. Unfortunately The Return of Xander Cage has made an awful lot of money at the box office, all but guaranteeing another instalment, and one can only hope that it somehow manages to reiterate in a more creative, less insulting manner.

The plot of the film is so silly it is not worth a summary, yet the film boasts an astonishing cast of international renown, including Toni Collette and Donnie Yen, and marks the debut in Hollywood of the lovely, talented Bollywood star Deepika Padukone: one cannot help but feel sorry for her in a role that does very little justice to her acting abilities, ogles her physical beauty and, frankly, does not bode well for her future in English language films.

I’m not saying you cannot enjoy this new xXx film. I’m just warning you that stepping into this interminable film (yes, it is boring) will guarantee you stupid jokes, a clichéd plot, hackneyed action scenes, banal bad girls and not even a single surprise. With The Fast and the Furious films as an example of what to do, xXx is an example of what not to do, ever. You will be seeing more of Diesel as Xander Cage, a $356-million box office gross assures us that. But when we struggle to be able to find and watch films like Hidden Figures and Arrival (both of which were nominated for Best Picture this year) it is always a bit of a shame when our cinemas can only make money while carrying the likes of Xander Cage’s ignominious return.

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