The third explosive chapter of the blockbuster franchise that redefined the spy thriller finds extreme athlete turned government operative Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) coming out of self-imposed exile and on a collision course with deadly alpha warrior Xiang and his team in a race to recover a sinister and seemingly unstoppable weapon known as Pandora's Box. Recruiting an all-new group of thrill-seeking cohorts, Xander finds himself enmeshed in a deadly conspiracy that points to collusion at the highest levels of world governments. Packed with the series' signature deadpan wit and bad-ass attitude, "xXx:RETURN OF XANDER CAGE" will raise the bar on extreme action with some of the most mind-blowing stunts to ever be caught on film.
Has it really been 15 years since we last saw Vin Diesel as Xander Cage, jumping off mountains and beating up the bad guys across the globe? Why yes it has. Only a few years later, we got a xXx sequel with Ice Cube in the spotlight, rather than Vin Diesel. It was stated in the sequel that Vin Diesel’s character was killed off, leaving Ice Cube to pick up the pieces and become the action star in the early 2000s. Now, it’s 2017 and Vin Diesel makes billion dollar Fast and Furious movies, so Hollywood finally gave the greenlight to another xXx film that has Diesel returning as Xander Cage, despite the fact that he’s already dead. These things don’t matter with this third installment, titled xXx: Return of Xander Cage.
Directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye), this third'quel takes its cues from the over-the-top action movies of the late 80s and 90s and never looks back. None of the film makes any sense, but then again it’s not supposed to. This is a very dumb film, yet it’s highly entertaining and very fun from start to finish. Luckily, the film knows exactly what it is and even pokes fun at itself, which makes Return of Xander Cage very tolerable and will even have you laughing out loud throughout. Yes, Xander Cage is very much alive and jumping off towers with no parachutes and skiing down rocky mountains with ease. He is brought in by the CIA to track down a device called Pandora’s Box that can spy on anyone at any time, and even bring down space satellites like missiles and kill people.
Xander teams up with a group of other xXxs, including Donnie Yen (I’m one with the force, the force is with me) and Thai master Tony Jaa, who might as well be Michael Jackson in this role. Every other character has their special trait and skill, including being a deejay, crashing vehicles and telling social media about it, and even a tech guru who makes Lincoln jokes and has a safe word. It’s all silly, dumb, and so much fun. Luckily, the film never slows down or tries to be serious at any point in time. Every action beat and fight scene would have any superhero die a horrible death in an instant, but this is xXx with Vin Diesel, and nobody dies, let alone get a scratch on their face, even when there is a fist fight in the middle of a highway with tons of oncoming traffic.
There are for sure some funny performances, but I want to talk about Vin Diesel. I don’t understand how this guy gets work. He is literally the worst actor in the world. He is good as a voice actor who can say a few lines, but good God, it’s literally painful to watch him on screen. I don’t get it. Every time he’s on screen, you just wish one of the other characters had screen time instead. Other than that, this film is quite fun, action-packed and ridiculous, which in this day and age, it’s good sometimes to turn off your brain and enjoy the grand spectacle.
Will there be more xXx films in the future? It looks like it and that’s not a bad thing.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
xXx: Return of Xander Cage comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc and a DVD copy of the film from Paramount that is Region A Locked. There is an insert for a digital download as well here. The discs are housed in an eco-friendly, hard, blue, plastic case with a cardboard cover.
xXx: Return of Xander Cage comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio for this Blu-ray release. This is one stunning looking image with tons of giant action set pieces that mixes practical and CGI environments and stunts. Detail is extremely sharp and vivid in each scene, which can slightly show the fake CGI effects fairly easily. Closeups reveal makeup wounds, individual beads of sweat, five o'clock shadows, freckles, and facial pores very well in all lighting conditions. You'll also be able to make out every strand of hair on Vin Diesel's signature jacket here.
Wider shots never go soft as you can make out every piece of wildlife and vegetation in the exotic locations early in the film. CGI effects are sharp as well, although you'll be able to distinguish them from the practical effects. Every explosion looks sharp and never pixelated with every piece of debris and dirt showing up nicely. Colors are vibrant and pop off screen. In the first few minutes of the film, we see xXx fly down a mountain with blue skies, green trees, brown dirt, and every possibly primary color of the village in the background.
Every color looks exquisite and shines brightly with well balanced and well-saturated color palettes. There is a scene or two in the Dominican Republic where there is an amber filter applied, but it doesn't take away from any of the detail as does the steely blue filter in the underground bunker. Black levels are deep and inky with zero crush and skin tones are always natural in normal lighting conditions. There are no major issues with any banding, aliasing, or video noises, leaving this video presentation with great marks.
This release comes with a Dolby Atmos track, which is simply phenomenal and everything you want in a big action film like this one. From the biggest explosions to the smallest piece of horrible dialogue that Vin Diesel delivers is his signature voice, you can expect a full, robust, and striking sound on all levels. This mix is loud and will certainly rattle your walls and bones with each explosion and high-octane action sequence, which starts off in the first scene as described above where xXx throttles down a mountain at full speed where your speaker system will show off every nuanced noise in the background.
Sound effects pack a big punch with powerful gunshots, explosions, and vehicles roaring across the street. The scene where we have motorcycles zooming by is where you'll feel the full force of the bass with its low engines revving up, which never goes into rocky territory. The Atmos effects of bullets flying overhead and debris from explosions zooming by all sound incredible and provide a fully immersive experience in this action-packed arena of sound. The score and music always add to the suspense and entertainment of the film without drowning out any other sound. Ambient noises are clear and pour freely from the surrounds nicely.
Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, even with the faint sounds of Vin Diesel's dialogue as he oozes cheesy lines from one scene to the next. The dynamic range is very wide and the LFE is excellent. There are also no pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills here, leaving this energetic audio presentation with great marks.
Third Time's The Charm: Xander Returns (HD, 8 Mins.) - The cast and crew talk about the character of Xander Cage in the xXx universe and how he's evolved over the years and past films. There is some on-set footage here and clips from the film too.
Rebels, Tyrants, and Ghosts: The Cast (HD, 20 Mins.) - The cast and crew talk about all the big characters in the film with each character getting a title card and a few minutes of their background and character traits. There are more on-set footage and clips from the film too.
Opening Pandora's Box: On Location (HD, 16 Mins.) - The crew discuss shooting on location in different countries, as well as building elaborate sets for certain scenes.You'll get to see some pre-production drawings, on-set footage, and green screen footage here.
I Live for This Sh#t!: Stunts (HD, 15 Mins.) - The cast and crew talk about the crazy stunts performed throughout the film and show how a lot of them were done and executed with on-set footage and clips from the film.
Gag Reel (HD, 2 Mins.) - A brief montage of flubbed lines, cursing, laughing, and set pieces gone wrong.
xXx: Return of Xander Cage is fun, silly, and action-packed. With these types of films, you can't go in expecting an Oscar worthy performance of anyone, or amazing dialogue that will be remembered for years, or even a story that makes a lick of sense. That's not this movie. However, if you go in with an expectation to see crazy, over-the-top action sequences, excellent fight choreography, big explosions, and laughable one-liners, then you're going to have a good time with the film.
On top of that, the video and audio presentations are top notch. The extras are fun to watch, but don't offer a lot of big insight. Sometimes, you just need to take a break from life or serious decisions and watch a movie that is pure excitement and a lot of fun. With that, xXx: Return of Xander Cage is Highly Recommended!