• by Wes Singleton

XXX: Return of Xander Cage, C-


Rated PG-13, 107 minutes

Stunts, and more stunts. Lots and lots of stunts. Somewhere in the middle of all the action-packed stunts is a silly movie called "XXX: The Return of Xander Cage," an entertainingly mindless action flick that's strictly for star Vin Diesel's fan base, who'll enjoy this the most. Too bad, XXX planned his return for the cinematic cesspool of January, though this piece of junk will fit in just fine.

Extreme athlete turned government operative Xander Cage (Diesel), thought to be long dead, comes out of self-imposed exile as recruited by the CIA's Jane Markel (Toni Collette) to race villain Xiang (Donnie Yen) to recover a powerful weapon known as "Pandora's Box" which can control military satellites which could cause catastrophic damage. Recruiting a group of thrill-seeking cohorts, Xander finds himself caught up in a deadly conspiracy of corruption among world governments including insiders in his own country's government.

Directed by "Disturbia's" D.J. Caruso with a script by F. Scott Frazier and based on the original characters by Rick Wilkes in the 2002 film, which explored what we've always wanted to know: what would happen if an extreme athlete turned into a CIA spy. With a 2005 sequel starring Ice Cube (who also cameos here), these films are not exactly a model of subtle, smart filmmaking shaded with great characters and acting - of course not - people don't go to these films expecting that, and on that note, this lackluster sequel is as dumb and ludicrous as they come, even with the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, who's never been one to turn down a paycheck, and Toni Collette, who steps into his leader role this time out.

What we do get is some admittedly cool stunts that pepper the unmemorable "XXX: The Return of Xander Cage," including an opening featuring Diesel skiing down a mountain and skateboarding, not to mention some terrific chases, a chase with some motorcycles on water skis and the most memorable sequence, a car chase through the streets of Detroit.

By the way, there is some silly plot in "XXX" involving a conspiracy and satellites and such, but that rarely gets in the way of the action sequences and the nicely assembled international cast, including Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose and getting in a few fun lines, "The Vampire Diaries'" Nina Dobrev as the technical guru who can hack into computers with the best of them.

If you enjoy this sort of thing, all the energy, action and stunts, then the forgettable "XXX: The Return of Xander Cage" is for you, but you likely won't remember much of it later on.

#xxxthereturnofxandercage #vindiesel #tonicollette #djcaruso #icecube #samuelljackson

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