TMN Movie Review: xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

This review will contain heavy spoilers.

So… This series used to be a thing.


This movie is the cinematic equivalent of a high-school jock-turned-teenage dad putting on his old pair of Jordans, twisting his baseball cap so the bill hangs to the side, and showering the new generation with outdated slang trying to prove that he’s still got it.

Spoiler: he ain’t got it, and neither does this movie.

I’m gonna let Wikipedia take it from here: “It received generally mixed reviews from film critics and audiences, who claimed the film’s story-line and its script were lame and medium…

My God, dude. When Wikipedia resorts to using of the word “lame” to describe your film, you know you messed up.

The film opens with Samuel L. Jackson talking to real-life American soccer/European football star, Neymar Jr. Why did they use Neymar? Probably because they needed a selling point for the Latin American market. He literally doesn’t even speak English during any of his scenes; the producers just throw subtitles up on the screen and have Sam Jackson reply to him in English. Like, if he’s incapable of speaking even basic English for this part, how can he understand any of what Jackson is saying? Whatever. Anyways, the joke’s on Central America since Neymar dies in the first five minutes. But the joke’s also on American America since Samuel L. Jackson does, too.

In a really weird editing decision, the filmmakers decide to inter-cut between the cause of Jacksons death (a falling satellite) and Jacksons conversation with Neymar, and instead of being consistent, some of the longest interludes in between the two perspectives come when the satellite is closest to the ground. Like, we can see the building it’s about to crash into, and Sam still gets an entire minute of dialogue. Did the editors forget that t=d/r is a thing?

Moving on. We cut to Vin Diesel, doing Diesel-y things. He’s climbing a radio tower and stealing components. Then he puts on snow skis. Except he’s in Central America, so when he jumps off the tower to evade authorities, he winds up skiing on friggin foliage. Okay. And then he does that other EXTREME SPORTS thing where he skateboards downhill on a winding road WITHOUT KNEEPADS, narrowly avoiding SUDDEN DEATH in the form of ONCOMING VEHICLES FOLLOWING THE SPEED LIMIT! Except it’s not exciting because this is the stuff that YouTube was built off of. Then it turns out the component he got was a transmitter allowing the village he’s chilling in to watch the soccer game (because that’s all destitute rural communities care about). That’s how we know that Vin Diesel is The Good Guy (™). Vin Diesel is then rewarded for his generosity in the form of sex with a woman we never see again.

We cut to a super-secret meeting of the top brass from any number of random government agencies. Turns out the rogue satellite was actually hacked. It was hacked by a device called Pandora’s Box, which is a name that the writers were responsible enough to make thematically relevant (jk). We get this via exposition from a character whose name I forget and am too lazy to look up in the Wikipedia tab for this movie. I’ll just call her The Head Broad (hereafter THB).

Anyways, THB gives us some info about Pandora’s Box, which doesn’t even have the decency to be box-shaped. It hacks satellites and stuff. Well, not ‘and stuff,’ just satellites.  Not bank accounts, not nuclear codes, not power grids. Just satellites. It’s magic because, well, Pandora’s Box. Then some bad guys come and steal Pandora’s Box because they’re evil. They have a ninja guy who busts in and every minor character in the room kinda just waits their turn to die because they forgot they can move independently of each other and attack him from behind, but okay. Then the bad guys get away because the agent who tries to stop them decides that he should shoot at them without aiming from the unstable position of a moving motorcycle while closing the distance so he could be within reach of their ninja moves.

Then more Top Brass come in and one of them drops a corny line about how they need someone who can walk through tornadoes or something to handle this, and I almost laughed (but didn’t, because that would have disrupted the viewing experience of the entire audience of one other dude in the theater), because you could hire some bouncers from Chucks and expect better results.

Moving on. We cut back to Vin Diesel laying low. Then the government finds him and sets up an elaborate scenario for him to prove himself, and of course, he makes fools out of those goons. The THB comes on the scene to marvel at his prowess and how he one-upped her whole team, which is weird because she had to have expected at least some measure of success if the entire point was that he demonstrate his prowess. This is like a Pizza Hut manager hiring Jeff Gordon and then being surprised he delivered bread sticks within thirty minutes, but no one accused this movie of adhering to logical consistency.

Cage says that if they are to recruit him, he has to put together his own team. So he tells them to get Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Dwayne Johnson, and co. but the producers show up and notify him that they don’t have that kind of budget, and so Vin settles for actors who I was only vaguely aware of.

During this exchange between THB and Diesel, the audio production crew must have gone on strike, because of Vin Diesel’s voice, the vocal-equivalent of a Brillo pad, attains a new level of scratchiness not thought possible by human vocal cords. It sounded like Vin took the phrase “eat the mic” literally, but it was still transmitting audio after getting caught on his uvula, so everyone was just kinda like “Okay…”

(No, seriously, the audio is broken)

So they track down Pandora’s Box. Vin acquires the help of an independent, no-nonsense, started-from-the-bottom cyberspace wizard who also happens to be female. Vin tries to seduce her… AND FAILS! This proves to the audience that she exists for more than just objectification. The film then forgets that it’s now the year 2017 and that women are people. So Vin has an orgy with cyber girls BFF’s, whom we see approximately never again. So, jokes on you, feminism.

Turns out the bad guys were part of the X-Cubed program as well. Vin turns the tables on them by asking why the device was actually called Pandora’s Box, and in the ensuing philosophical introspection he snatched it. Then Spetznaz arrives in force, but Vin hops on a dirt bike to fight them off, and his skills are so smooth the movie jumps from the cinematic standard of 24 frames per second to 60 frames per second (it literally did this).

I’m going to skip a bunch of it and summarize.

Turns out, the bad guys are good, and the government are the real bad guys (a subtle repudiation of the Trump administration, no doubt). Vin fights on an airplane that’s free-falling and flushes a guy down a toilet then he made a pun that I can’t remember because it was so bad.

Ice Cube shows up, and ices some fools.

Vin Diesel plays orbital soccer with the satellites by flying an airplane into the path of one.

Ice Cube’s character has a fan-gasm over Vin’s character, but his face forgot to stop sneering, so we’re not sure if he was serious about it.

Then Sam Jackson shows back up with Neymar. When Vin asks how he survived, Sam playfully tells Vin that he can play dead really well. Considering we saw him get vaporized, this is like saying you’re good at the mannequin challenge because you can stop time.

This movie is best viewed drunk with friends so that you can laugh at the corniness.


And now, a haiku:

I wanted to like

This film more than I did. It

Gets 5 out of 10.

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