xXx (the kind you can watch with your mother)

xXx (the kind you can watch with your mother)

By:
01/24/2017

A satellite is hurtling toward earth, flaming in all its CGI-glory, to a ballad of techno-rock music. You’re sitting in an IMAX theater, 3D goggles resting on the bridge of your nose, probably wondering why you just spent $20 on your ticket for a Vin Diesel film. Or, you could be wondering why the floor is so sticky (but some questions are better left unasked). But rest assured: your money was not spent (and your shoes not ruined) in vain. This movie was arguably one of the best executed, corniest, and most hilarious action movies of the year.

You have to enter xXx: Return of Xander Cage with the right kind of expectations. It’s not going to win an Oscar, nor will it deliver the kind of superb acting to deserve one. What it will deliver, unfailingly, is the perfect balance between a movie so bad you can’t watch it, and a movie so bad you can’t not watch it. If you’re anything like me, you will spend most of the movie trying to determine if the actors are being ironic, or if they really think this is their time to shine. If you’re anything like me, it will prompt you to ask questions like, “I wonder if Vin Diesel looks back on his movies like, ‘Wow, I really nailed that Xander Cage character,’” or if he’s more like, “‘LOL, that was hilarious.’” And, if you’re anything like me, by God you’re going to see the sequel.

Officially released on Jan. 20, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage centers around Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) leaving his self-imposed exile to help the NSA capture a device—creatively dubbed “Pandora’s Box” but also known as “a Nintendo DS” (kidding)—that can eavesdrop, corrupt, and transmit basically anything and everything (that’s as specific as the movie got) while reserving the power to take control of every military satellite in the world and turn any of these satellites into flaming, deadly missiles. *inhales* If only there was someone who could save us!

Fortunately, there is. Xander Cage is introduced to us as he’s climbing a cell-tower somewhere in South America. Grabbing what he needs off of it, he checks the countdown running on his phone before snapping on a pair of skis, giving a pair of security guards the middle finger, and—that’s right—skiing through the rainforest. I didn’t even know that was possible. With some more of that techno-rock music propelling him and us forward, Cage lands on the corrugated metal roof of a house situated in the forest and swings himself down to the applause and high-fives of children and neighbors alike. He grabs his skateboard from them and skateboards between traffic, off the side of a truck, down a winding hill, arriving to deliver a cable connection just in time for the town’s occupants to watch a soccer match. But our hero has no interest in the game, as he is led off to an excruciatingly long and sepia-toned sex scene with what was apparently the nearest English-speaking bombshell he could find (a bombshell who, when left alone in bed the next morning, gazes at Cage’s skateboard and smiles softly at the memory of her one-night stand, leaving the audience to appreciate the connection between two of the world’s finest actors).

Cage is recruited by NSA officer Jane Marke (Toni Collette) in a moment of bold, witty sleuthdom that would ring familiar to anyone who has watched other films in the xXx franchise. Collette, with slicked back white-blonde hair and structured suits, delivers one of the worst acting performances I have ever seen. Really, one of the worst. After one hijacked satellite crashes down, killing Cage’s mentor and xXx-program founder, Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), Marke delivers the following one-liner (which I encourage any and all of you to incorporate into your daily lives, as necessary) without any taste of wit, with the words dropping off her tongue like pop-rocks: “They took out the best of the best like Sunday brunch. We need someone who can do it like a soft breeze.”

“A soft breeze.”

And thus, this “someone” is introduced to us, gradually, after Cage demonstrates his mistrust for the system by throwing all her G.I.Joe’s off a plane. He needed “the good, the bad, and the completely insane” for a team. Each member of his team and the triple xXx team he’s fighting against for Pandora’s Box is introduced to us playing-card style, with their name and a couple of fun facts.

For example, there’s Adele Wolff (Ruby Rose), who we find holds the unofficial title of “Most broken bones” and whose screen name is “Lady_Boner.” If you were wondering, she can also rip off a boat’s sail cloth, wrap it around herself like an acrobat, and thus string herself and her gun from a palm tree. There’s Xiang (Donnie Yen); Nicks (Kris Wu)—a D.J. who’s “fun to be around;” Talon (Tony Jaa)—also known as “Dance Dance Revolution” by Wolff for his platinum blonde hair; Serena (Deepika Padukone)—who serves as Cage’s main romantic interest; and Becky (Nina Dobrev)—who is the nervous, nerdy, attractive NSA-tech agent who is a reliable source of fangirling over Cage.

Together, amidst a slew of literally incredible action sequences and hilarious one-liners (listed below), the xXx not only confronts government corruption in trying to reach Pandora’s Box, but also addresses problems on many minds today, especially in today’s political climate. There is the fear of being watched and listened to that is becoming increasingly present in action movies, and the constant threat of government corruption. There is a mistrust and reverence within the establishment of those who are able to maintain a “ghost” status in a time where everything and everyone is documented. And a plea to Cage’s patriotism, similarly done in the first xXx movie, receives the response that, “Patriotism is dead. [There are] only rebels and tyrants now.”

It is an underlying theme in this movie, the rejectable notion that we should do something for our country. Cage seems to begin an act for his country, but when the motivations of his country don’t align with his moral code or with what he and xXx deem best for the world, Cage has no problem deviating from his mission. He is a modern-day hero, unblinded by duties and obligations set out for him by his employer and by his government, able to see through their tricks just as in all their recruitment tactics.

The movie flies by, filled with laughs and gasps from the aforementioned incredible action sequences and one-liners. If you have an affinity for really bad action movies, this was a great one. It’s got all you need, from scantily-clad women, lots of sunglasses, and even a slow-motion, back-to-back shooting scene in the middle of an abandoned parking garage in Detroit. It’s got a moral code too, just take the words of the esteemed Samuel L. Jackson, “It would be a wonderful world, if we stop doing shit to it.”

There’s so much I want to say about this movie, but only so much space. So if you’re torn between watching it and not, take a look at some of my favorite parts.

“We aren’t at war. We are in peril.”

That time when Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) checks his watch while slow-motion shooting and eliminating secret service agents.

“I used to think you’re the man, but maybe you’re just working for him.” Said before Cage participates in an orgy with what looked to be a bunch of Victoria’s Secret angels?

“It was like finding a needle in a stack of needles.”

“I can’t believe this shit.”

“Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

“It ain’t easy to keep me safe.”

That chase scene when Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is surfing under a crashing wave while riding a motorcycle that suddenly transforms into a jet-ski(?).

“I can only jam the signal for a few minutes! Hurry!”

“I decided to change the world instead of rage against it.”

“You crashed my party, stole my partner; now i’m going to crash yours.” Followed by, “This ain’t a party; this is a race.”

That time when Adele Wolff (Ruby Rose) shot “between the lines:” a.k.a through two buildings and thus through Vin Diesel’s fingers.

“He said I’d know why when I needed to know why. Now I know why.”

That time when Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) had a zero-gravity fight in a free-falling plane before jumping out of it without a parachute and living.

“X takes care of its own.”

“I thought you didn’t like the good guys?” “Well, it’s okay to be a little bad.”

“Kick some ass, get the girl, and try to look dope while doing it.”

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Isabel Lord Isabel graduated from the College and wishes she learned how to soulja boy and will fight you for dessert. She is the Voice's former multimedia editor, coproducer of the Fashion Issue, and has the deepest voice on the podcast Stripped.


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