‘xXx’ a wildly careless feature

Tuesday, January 24, 2017 - 5:21pm

NOSELL

Paramount Pictures

 

That the newest film in the “xXx” franchise wouldn't take itself seriously was a given. These films have always been targeted at those who find the “Fast and the Furious” movies too serious. “Return of Xander Cage” takes it to a different level—it simply doesn’t care. It can’t be bothered to take anything too seriously, least of all its own quality or what its audience may want. Caring is for “suits” who don’t know how to have fun, and all “Xander Cage” wants to do is, by its own admission, “kick some ass, get the girl, and try to look dope doing it.” Somehow, it can’t even do that right.

It almost looks promising in its first few scenes, with a couple genuinely great stunts, a decent sense of humor and the impossibly cool Donnie Yen (“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”) leading the charge. It knows it’s stupid and revels in that fact. Then, as if trying to break some sort of record, it runs that shtick into the ground within ten minutes, and apathy defines the rest of the affair.

As a result of that indifference, the dialogue, acting and half the scenes would feel right at home in a run-of-the-mill porno. It’s not an understatement to say that “The Return of Xander Cage” may have some of the worst dialogue to ever grace the big screen, with every character constantly saddled with the task of delivering the same kind of tin-eared, clunky, inane one-liners over and over again. Half of these are bad lines to begin with, but the other half are ruined by the wooden acting that pervades the cast, particularly Toni Collette (“Krampus”), who turns in an egregiously monotone performance.

When the heroes of “Return of Xander Cage” aren’t acting like the caffeine-addled eight graders who wrote the script, they’re partaking in the worst action scenes of 2017 so far. Which includes not just the hyper-choreographed hand-to-hand combat either which is generally saved by Yen’s incomparable stunt work –– but also every scene with even an ounce of excitement. A sequence late in the movie, which involves two guys chasing after each other, is so filled with incomprehensible “shaky cam” and poor editing that it actually hurts to look at. Any hope that these scenes could be elevated by a good effect is obliterated by effects that look, at best, like something out of the early nineties.

However, many won’t be interested in “Return of Xander Cage” because they believe it will be a competently made film. They’re just looking to have fun, and that’s understandable. Not every movie needs to be some uber-intelligent meditation on life provided they at least try to create a worthwhile experience for their audience. This is where “Return of Xander Cage” is most lacking. It doesn’t care what its audience wants. It doesn’t matter if they’re looking for competent filmmaking or a good time.

Several major plot points that change the course of the movie happen off-screen because the film doesn’t care. It brings back elements from the previous film, “State of the Union,” which even fans of the original despise, because it doesn’t care. Characters appear from out of nowhere so often that by the end of the movie, the only reasonable explanation is that these people have the ability to travel through space and time. “Return of Xander Cage” doesn’t care about being a good movie, and it doesn’t care about being “fun.” It just wants to do its own thing, and anybody who has a problem with that must not know what a good time is.

Yet in its final moments, “Return of Xander Cage” still has time to treat itself like a very special movie. “If people would just treat each other better, the world would be a better place,” it says, straight-faced. Considering it amounts to a little more than one hundred and ten minute of audience abuse, the irony is incredible.