“XXX” marks the spot

By Grant Dillard, Contributing writer

In January, the month that gave audiences terrible movies such as “Underworld: Blood Wars,” “Monster Trucks” and “The Bye Bye Man,” “XXX: Return of Xander Cage” is easily the diamond in the rough. Directed by D.J. Caruso, the third installment of the “XXX” series focuses on Xander Cage (Vin Diesel). Cage, a former agent of the “XXX” program, is forced to come out of retirement in order to stop a rival team led by Xiang (Donnie Yen) from getting its hands on a device called Pandora’s Box. This device has the ability to make satellites crash down and cause worldwide destruction.

The plot is the weakest factor in the film. It’s confusing at times and is not interesting enough to become truly invested in. But really, plot isn’t the main reason to enjoy a film like this. This is the kind of movie where audiences can sit back and enjoy the exciting action scenes, hilarious one-liners and amazing stunt work. Thankfully, all those aspects are very well done and entertaining.

The main cast, while not entirely memorable, does have its highlights. First off, Vin Diesel is extremely fun to watch as agent Xander Cage. Surprisingly, he’s very energetic and has a lot of charisma. This is unexpected because in films like the “Fast and Furious” series, he’s usually very stoic and monotone. Another standout is Adele Wolff (Ruby Rose). She’s a wisecracking assassin who always has something snarky to say, as well as being a good shot with any weapon. But, by far, the best element about the film has to be Donnie Yen’s character, Xiang. It has nothing to do with how the character is written, but lies in the fact that he’s played by Donnie Yen, one of the greatest martial arts actors right now. He takes every opportunity given to show off his amazing martial arts skills, and it is quite amusing to watch.

The only other major flaw, aside from the generic and uninteresting plot, is a character that’s introduced halfway into the film: Becky Clearidge (Nina Dobrev). She’s supposed to be the comic relief, but her humor falls flat. Throughout all of her scenes, there’s always a joke or two that she has to spew out, but not one of those jokes ever hits the mark. Becky’s “comedy” is about as cringe-inducing as the humor in Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movies – it’s that bad.

Despite a weak plot and a terrible side character, “XXX: Return of Xander Cage” is an enjoyable, silly, popcorn action flick. Hardcore fans of the “XXX” series will probably like it more than casual moviegoers. But if audiences are simply looking for a cheesy action movie with entertainment and corny dialogue galore, “xXx” marks the spot.