Film Review: Doomed franchise returns to theaters with “XXX: Return of Xander Cage”

Grade: F

It has been a long time since Revolution Studios has produced a film. In 2007, the studio came out with “The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep” and then it was not until 2017 — 10 years later — that they finally premiered another film, which just so happens to be the third installment to the poorly-received Xander Cage franchise. This newest addition to the series, “XXX: Return of Xander Cage,” attempts to prove that the series can be considered a reputable action hero and secret agent franchise, but ultimately fails miserably. It’s not that it is the worst film in the franchise; it is just another Xander Cage movie that fails to engage an audience.

Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), an extreme sport enthusiast-turned spy for the NSA returns from the dead to help CIA Agent Jane Marke (Toni Collette) retrieve a device nicknamed “Pandora’s Box,” which has the capability of controlling satellites to crash at specific locations, like that of nuclear warheads. It seems relatively straightforward, yet Xander encounters many obstacles along the way as any action hero would. Weirdly enough, a storyline featuring none other than the character of Brazilian FC Barcelona footballer Neymar Jr. makes its way into the story awkwardly. Samuel L. Jackson returns to his role as NSA Agent Augustus Gibbons and Ice Cube returns as former XXX operative Darius Stone.

The third film debuted 12 years after “XXX: State of the Union,” which succeeded the original “XXX” movie. Think about that; as a traditional college student now, you may have been anywhere between six and 10 years old. It was a ridiculous idea to bring this series out of retirement, especially since review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes scored “State of the Union” at 16 percent on its Tomatometer — and critics alike found it boring and primitive. Not surprisingly, based on the critical response of the first two additions to this series (the original “XXX” scored 48 percent on the Tomatometer), there have been three separate directors for each film and many different crew members.

“Return of Xander Cage” is arguably worse than all 26 of the James Bond films, which are often unhesitatingly regarded as the epitome of what films starring a secret agent should be like: suave, sophisticated and cunning. This film is none of those despite its explosions and kick-butt action. It is a rebirth that never should have happened — and now the story is left open-ended to allow for another monotonous sequel. The story dried up a long time ago and now it seems only to serve as a way to scrape by at the box office rather than to be competitive in the action movie market.

As stated previously, Revolution Studios, which has been a part of the making of every “XXX” film in the franchise, had a 10-year hiatus before debuting another movie of any kind. That fact is worrying and it might serve as an indicator for its quality as a production studio.

However, in conjunction with other producers, the studio produced lauded films such as “Black Hawk Down,” “Radio,” and the sixth addition to the “Rocky” series, “Rocky Balboa.” They even have had many productions with Happy Madison Productions, Adam Sandler’s film and television company.

“Return of Xander Cage” could not overcome the hurdles erected by the films that came before it. It is haphazard, lazily put together and not worth watching. Still, even with the revival of another series that managed to break even at the box office, Xander Cage should have stayed dead.

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