xXx 3: The Return of the Paper-Thin Characters

It is rather telling of the quality and anticipation of a film that gives away free screening passes but still has six people in attendance on opening day; thus was the story of xXx 3: The Return of Xander Cage, the latest entry in the loud and senseless xXx franchise that sees the return of Vin Diesel to the role he originated in the original film back in 2002 (he skipped out on the sequel, 2005’s State of the Union). It is a film that has a core audience it is shooting for and little else- it is not concerned with appealing to most cinemagoers, leastwise any who are not fans of ridiculously over-the-top action setpieces and scripts that play out like they are cobbled together from a series of sticky notes pinned to the “really cool-sounding action scene” corkboard in the dimly-lit office of some coked-up studio executive.

Vin Diesel returns as Xander Cage when events unfold that sees the ultimate weapon, “Pandora’s Box,” fall into the hands of some people who intend to do some pretty bad things. Cage must come out of retirement and leave behind his life of high-fiving people on buses and stealing satellite TV to take on this team of super-terrorists with a team of his own. The film also stars Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nona Dobrev, Kris Wu, Rory McCann, Toni Collette and Samuel L. Jackson, and a cast list of this size is indicative of the utter lack of character development any of these characters actually has. They are for all intents and purposes coloring book sketches barely colored in, existing solely for the sake of a fast quip during an action sequence and to fulfill some stereotypical role in the film.

So, no, don’t come to xXx 3 looking for robust, well-fleshed-out characters who grow and learn and live and breathe on the screen. They are real-life versions of Michael Bay’s Transformers; unrecognizable in the clutter of the absolute disaster of a “plot” this film has, essentially window dressing between massive extreme stunts and action set pieces left to emit audible “wow” moments from its audience. The pacing of the film is almost nauseating, stopping long enough to allow the audience to breathe before ramping up the chaos once again with enough up-close action scene cuts to make Christopher Nolan envious. Its script is utterly terrible and easily picked to pieces, with its plot “twists” coming from a mile away and scenes obviously staged only to pay off with other action sequences later in the film. It’s a silly bit of nonsense.

Yet that is where this film is, ultimately, a success. Going into this movie these were the exact expectations that were carried into it, and therefore the film didn’t dissapoint in the slightest. It is unapologetically bad, but it also unapologetically acknowledges exactly what type of film it is. Its tongue is firmly planted in its cheek and it simply wants to cut fast and frantically between its action pauses, absurd as they are, from skiing through a jungle to riding a motorcycle underwater. It is a movie reliant on and tethered to the ideas of machoism and sex, and knowing that going in may at least allow one to give it the most general of passes. As loathesome as the phrase is, this is definitely “turn off your brain” cinema of the highest order and it cannot hold up to scrutiny. The characters are some of the worst you’ll ever see in a film, but they certainly do “look dope,” and that’s the entire point of the film. Four stars out of ten.

- Nicholas Haskins
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2 thoughts on “xXx 3: The Return of the Paper-Thin Characters

  1. Believe it or not, the studio asked Vin Diesel and Co if they were willing to return for a fourth and fifth film (lol). Personally, They should’ve created this “film” at least two years after the second one instead of waiting when the X-Games fad died out.

    I may do a show on 10 year sequels sometime.

    Like

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