Thursday, 2 February 2017

XXX - The Return of Xander Cage

The baseline for walking back a character death is “Huh, they must have switched baskets.”.

Famously, when Vin Diesel had better things to do than come back for the sequel to the original XXX, the producers wrote him out with a dismissive line of dialogue before replacing him with Ice Cube. The handy thing about that approach is that’s a hell of a lot easier to walk back a line of dialogue than it is to walk back a properly budgeted death scene. So without even a wink at the audience, Vin Diesel is back as XXX as thought nothing has happened, and it’s time for more extreme sports stunts and complete idiocy in the cause of heaven knows what.

Well, I wanted something stupid.

I’d forgotten, however, how annoying Vin Diesel can be when there’s nothing around to pull him back down to earth. As the biggest name in the movie, he exudes a smugness which seems even bigger than his muscles. XXX, as a character, would be hilarious if there was someone around to call him on his bullshit, but instead the movie acts as though his nonsense is actually cool. Ridiculous fur coat? Unquestioned style statement. Risk your life and a dozen car crashes while destroying hundreds of dollars worth of sports equipment in order to steal a cable TV receiver instead of paying $80 to get a legit connection - well, in fairness, someone does call him on that bullshit, but then she has sex with him anyway, because the women can’t resist Xander Cage.

And it’s not as though the creative team didn’t have a sense of humour; in the throwaway opening, Samuel L Jackson is interviewing a new candidate for the XXX program, and a flashcard says that he "thought he was being interviewed for the Avengers” which is about two different kinds of funny. Shortly afterwards, Jackson gets murdered to bits, but don’t worry, he gets better. They knew jokes is what I’m trying to say; they just needed to run some of them past Vin. Who is smart, but probably not in a way that would have stopped them from making fun of him.

The chief villain of the piece is played by Toni Collette, who seems to have prepared for the role by renting The Long Kiss Goodnight and then imagining what blonde Charlie would have looked like if she’d gone into admin after the movie ended. Since Samuel L Jackson had a great time in that movie, I think I know who put her up to it.

That apart, it’s dumb stunts, objectified women and smart people slumming it. Donnie Yen not only appears to have parachuted in from a smarter movie but doesn’t appear to care if anyone else notices that he wishes he was still in that movie instead of this one. Ruby Rose is introduced to us sniping bow hunters on the Savannah so as to level the playing field between them and lions; it’s wonderfully wrong, but I’m sure I’m not the only person who has a comprehensive list of follow up targets for her to pop in a movie of her very own. Sadly, I can’t see Vin letting that happen, so in a couple of years she will be an even smaller part of the cast of bit players Vin swaggers around in XXX the return of the return of Xander Cage. I’ll probably wind up at it anyhow.

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