Combustible Celluloid
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With: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Toni Collette, Samuel L. Jackson, Nicky Jam, Rory McCann, Michael Bisping, Al Sapienza, Ariadna Gutiérrez, Hermione Corfield, Tony Gonzalez, Ice Cube
Written by: F. Scott Frazier, based on characters created by by Rich Wilkes
Directed by: D. J. Caruso
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of gunplay and violent action, and for sexual material and language
Running Time: 107
Date: 01/20/2017

xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Lame XXX-cuse

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Like its predecessors made over a decade ago, this action sequel is heavy on stunts, noise, fights, shootouts, and the objectification of women, but very light in the areas of writing or intelligence. Not much has changed since XXX (2002) or XXX: State of the Union (2004) — the latter of which starred Ice Cube rather than Vin Diesel — and it's business as usual, with the goal of hopefully creating a brain-dead franchise as lucrative as the Fast & Furious one has been.

In xXx: Return of Xander Cage, 13 years have passed, and the XXX division of the NSA has grown, with Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) continuing to recruit new agents. As he's talking to a new one (soccer star Neymar Jr.), a satellite crashes and explodes nearby. A mysterious squad (Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Michael Bisping, and Tony Jaa) steals the device, called "Pandora's Box," that controlled the satellite. Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) comes out of retirement to avenge Gibbons and retrieve the device. He assembles a team (Ruby Rose, Kris Wu, and Rory McCann) and discovers that the thieves are actually members of XXX. So they all team up to stop the real bad guy, who hopes to repurpose the evil technology to spy on everyday citizens. But to survive the final battle, the team will need a little more help...

The stunts in xXx: Return of Xander Cage are outrageous — including a jump from a tall tower and skiing through the jungle, surfing on motorcycle, and weightless fighting in a nosediving plane — and worth seeing. But it gets quite tiresome listening to all the characters trying to out-cool each other, watching the camera wander up and down the bodies of every pretty woman, and listening to loud, throbbing dance club music every two minutes. The screenplay by F. Scott Frazier — certainly no F. Scott Fitzgerald — doesn't even try. There's no reason to try watching it either.

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