Diesel flexes his muscles in XXX: Return of Xander Cage


Vin Diesel.
Vin Diesel.

FANCY an extreme close-up of Vin Diesel’s right tattooed nipple blown up on to a 25m screen?

It is just one of the many hilarious absurdities in XXX: Return of Xander Cage, the sequel nobody really asked for to a 15-year-old, moderate hit.

Its existence could likely be attributed to the inexplicable increasing success of Diesel’s Fast and Furious franchise, and yet, this ridiculous action film embraces how dumb it is and dials it up to 100 at a hell for leather pace.

When a black box (unimaginatively referred to as Pandora’s Box) that can control military satellites is stolen from the CIA, thrill-seeker and XXX program graduate Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is recruited by Jane Marke (Toni Collette) to recover it.

The military goons she handpicks to help him are immediately replaced by a ragtag team with their own special skill set.

All this thin plot does it set us up for two hours of over-the-top gunplay, martial arts, James Bond-like innuendo and one-liners and impossible stunts – but all with tongue firmly settled in cheek.

Steve Backshall shares stories in Deadly 60 Live! Pole to Pole

What sets this junky actioner apart from other B-grade fair is how self-aware it is – it knows that if it features a motorbike chase on the ocean among waves, it is not to be taken seriously.

Another highlight is how diverse the cast is and the unusually high number of female characters (for this kind of film) who are actually proactive, do as much damage as the guys and remain fully clothed throughout.

Only Collette seems out of place, delivering less facial expressions than Diesel, aiming for steely seriousness, but appearing bored to death.

If only she appeared to have as much fun as everyone else.

THE ESSENTIALS

XXX: Return of Xander Cage (M)

Directed by: D.J. Caruso

Starring: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Toni Collette

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

In cinemas now