“xXx: Return of Xander Cage”


            This is January, when Hollywood releases the movies that have no chance of Oscar consideration.  And this Vin Diesel action film would certainly fall into that category.  Don't expect great acting performances here.  But the stunts hover somewhere between incredible and not credible, so if you're a moviegoing adrenalin junkie, you could do a lot worse.

            It's a bit reminiscent of the early James Bond films, in that there's a kind of tongue-in-cheek aspect to all the daredevil artistry.  Who can ski through a jungle?  Who would risk life and limb trying to steal the black box off a broadcast tower so that poor Filipinos who can't afford cable could watch a soccer match?  How about a surfing motorcycle?  Jumping out of a plane without a parachute, and then catching up with one, mid-air?  Yes, all these things and more, and we never break a sweat, and we're never out of breath, and we never lose our cool, plus we're invulnerable and impervious to flying bullets.  A nice gig if you can get it.

            There is a semblance of a plot:  Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is a former government operative who gets coaxed out of retirement by the CIA (represented by Toni Collette).  It seems the bad guys have developed a new technology, where they can hack into any satellite and bring it crashing down to Earth.  This not only causes casualties at the point of impact, it's also wreaking havoc on the government's surveillance and communications network, which is exactly the aim of the terrorists.  But they're so high-tech, and apparently employ such athletically talented field operatives, that the CIA wants the “xXx” group revived to stop them.

            Xander Cage agrees to help, but on his own terms.  He doesn't want the tough-guy soldiers they want him to take for his backup; he's got his own crew in mind, and they're renegades, like he is.  And they're very good at what they do, they just don't like taking orders from “suits.”  There's a bit of rivalry going on with former “xXx” members, which is a little confusing, but eventually they all team up against the common enemy, who, it turns out, is himself a CIA turncoat (proving that you can't trust anybody in government?).

            Well, forget the plot, anyway.  It's not that important.  We're here to see the spectacular visuals of monster stunts and beautiful young women in bikinis (but no real nudity), tough men and women who excel in personal violence (but don't use bad language), and the barest hint of romance—because we're really too busy saving the world from itself.  The bad guys fall down in droves, but there's no real blood and gore, either.  More like video game combat, where we just quickly move on to the next threat and keep blasting away.

            Sure, it's mindless entertainment.  But if that's what you're in the mood for, just bring your popcorn, put on your 3-D glasses, and enjoy the dazzling show.


Questions for Discussion:

1)                  If you had the capacity to do away with government surveillance, would you?

2)                  If you had the capacity to send secret operatives to strike down terrorists, would you?

3)                  If you had the opportunity to jump out of an airplane, would you?


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association