xXx: Return Of Xander Cage Review

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Extreme-sports dude turned superspy Xander Cage (Diesel) returns from the not-dead to a world that needs him more than ever. Especially now a rogue named Xiang (Yen) and his gang have got their mitts on “Pandora’s Box” — a deadly doohickey that can control all the globe’s military satellites…

★★★★★

Vin Diesel just can't resist a comeback, can he? After sitting two Fast & Furious movies out, he rolled by once more as Dominic Toretto, back at the wheel to drive his team to new glories. Pitch Black's sci-fi anti-hero Richard B. Riddick surprised everyone by popping back up nine years after the preposterous Chronicles Of Riddick should by rights have buried him. And now, almost 15 years since inking up his Eternian-proportioned torso to play Xander Cage in the first xXx movie (dodging a bullet that hit Ice Cube full on with 2005's woeful xXx: State Of The Union), here he is again, ripened and ready to save another day — or should that be franchise?

Diesel's certainly not afraid to plagiarise his return-performance success as Toretto. Aside from the tattoos, the only discernible difference between the two outlaw day-savers is that one bangs on about "family", while the other sticks to sticking it to The Man. Here he even pulls together a Nesquick-instant team of "X" agents, despite only ever having worked alone before faking his death and spending a decade-and-a-half hiding out. An international mix of slinky chicks, hunky chumps and plucky wisecrackers, it's like someone slammed the F&F crew on a scanner. This one-man army never likes to work alone.

Still, his heart's in the right place (his fist), and so's his tongue (right there in his cheek). Return Of Xander Cage should be taken as seriously as candy floss should be treated as food, and it sprinkles its oh-so-familiar action nonsense with knowing winks — though Vin still can't quite sell a zinger, bless 'im. Plus, it has Donnie Yen to properly kick ass (in one scene apparently dressed as Danny Zuko), and a surprise cameo that's so preposterous it's possibly brilliant.

It's all clearly a set up for further instalments (yes, like that other Diesel-powered series), and despite all the silliness it leaves you feeling, "oh all right, you twisted my arm". If only to stop Diesel making The Last Witch Hunter: Return Of Kalder...

We've seen all these stunts pulled before, and seen them done better, but there's some pleasure to be had here — even if it's of the extremely guilty kind.