xXx Return of Xander Cage movie review: Fuelled by Diesel, but Deepika’s a Vinner

Movie review of xXx Return of Xander Cage

xXx: Return of Xander Cage
Director - DJ Caruso
Cast - Vin Diesel, Deepika Padukone, Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, Kris Wu, Toni Collette, Samuel L Jackson
Rating - 3/5

xXx: Return of Xander Cage is a different kind of beast. It’s one of those rare films – or rather, movies – that could very well draw whoops and cheers from certain audiences, and at the same time, it’s equally possible that it puts the rest to sleep.

Now, depending on the sort of moviegoer you are, you could either expect to leave the theatre deeply satisfied, a dumb smile plastered on your face, or you could leave waving your fist angrily in the air, rueing the day the thought of watching xXx: Return of Xander Cage ever crossed your mind, and cursing the person who convinced you into watching it.

Blame it on the hype, or blame it on Deepika Padukone; there’s no two ways about this, but we must all accept the fact that this film is not very intelligent. It’s loud, it’s rambunctious, there’s barely any real human interaction in it, in fact, for most of its almost-two-hour-duration, it’s epically goofy. But here’s the catch: It’s also the best possible version of the sort of film it could ever have hoped to be.

So where does that leave us? Shall we talk about the basic plot then?



Vin Diesel’s character, the extreme athlete-turned-spy Xander Cage is pulled out of retirement because a new global threat has presented itself. Like every good heist movie, at the centre of xXx is a team, put together in a flashy montage, and with the help of some convenient title cards (like Suicide Squad!), by Xander Cage himself. Each of these characters comes with their own set of skills, and the film does a solid job of balancing the action (which is without doubt the best thing about the film), the quippy banter, and the quiet, character moments.

But - and this is going to please you all - Deepika Padukone’s character is given a surprisingly decent amount of screentime. Surprisingly because, we’ve often been misled in the past (just ask Irrfan Khan).

Her character, who, for some odd reason, is called Serena Unger, is basically the only one who is given some backstory. On several occasions, she adds a much-needed spark to the proceedings, which sometimes – but not too often – almost threaten to topple under the sheer brute force of the action. In more good news, Deepika has excellent chemistry with Vin Diesel, who delivers a predictably magnetic, movie star performance. He is charming, in that trademark Vin Diesel manner, and fortunately, not as mopey as Dominic Toretto (his Fast & Furious character).

But in my opinion, it’s Donnie Yen who steals the film from under both their noses. This is the second film in a row, after December’s Rogue One, that he has managed to elevate considerably. And God knows this movie needed elevating.

The most accurate way to describe its tone, I have come to realise, is through its villain, who - and this is one of xXx’s biggest flaws – is a bit of a letdown. He’s one of those cybercriminals you see, the sort of mysterious figure so many films are resorting to these days. But here’s the thing. In any other movie, having a villain adept at ‘hacking’ and ‘computers’ would probably hint at a takeover of the CIA’s mainframes, or an infiltration into the privacy of random, innocent civilians. But not in xXx, no. In this movie, the villain’s modus operandi involves ‘dropping satellites’ on random locations.

Often, we ‘review’ films based not on what we see, but what we want to see. The idea of how a film is supposed to be (usually in our heads) gets in the way of what the director, the actors and the whole crew really, have actually put together. It’s a mistake that we all make, but that doesn’t make it OK.

xXx is a great example of this. It was never meant to be anything more than what it is: An over-the-top action picture with a ridiculous plot and fun characters – you know - the sort of harmless movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. All it wants to do – and the earnestness can usually be spotted from a mile away – is to provide some folks escapist fun. And that, it does. And because it has succeeded at what it wants to achieve, it must be appreciated. It’s the only logical choice that we have.

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