An emotionally invested enthusiast of pop culture in the guise of a Copywriter. Apathetic by design. Aesthetically offensive and eloquently candid. A sentimental heathen.

Once in a while, it is good to wind down and watch a movie purely for fun. Which is why I went to watch xXx: Return of Xander Cage. From the trailer alone, I can already deduce how the stories going to play out. But let’s be real. Nobody watch this for the story. I just need the barrage of eye pleasing action scenes and pretty people. And boy, it delivered in spades.

Years after he faked his death and went into self-exile, Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) returns as the xXx after the death of his recruiter-slash-probably-friend Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson). Now working under Jane Marke (Toni Collette), Xander recruited a new gang of dangerous thrill seekers: the sharpshooter Adele Wolff (Ruby Rose), stunt driver Tennyson Torch (Rory McCann), and party starter Nicks (Kris Wu a.k.a Wu Yifan, formerly Kris of K-Pop boyband EXO). With the help of Becky Clearidge (Nina Dobrev) as tech support who could get you anything you need.

Their mission? Taking back Pandora’s Box, a device that could take over every satellite orbiting earth, from the hands of equally formidable quartet: Xiang (Donnie Yen), Serena Unger (Deepika Padukone), Talon (Tony Jaa), and Hawk (Michael Bisping).

Seems simple? That’s because it is. Really, the story was just another rendition of patented Hollywood three-act structure. The Setup to establish the playing field, Confrontation where troubles started to brew and everything builds up for the Resolution in the form of one grand final face off. F. Scott Fitzgerald Frazier really didn’t wrote anything I haven’t seen before. Even some of the twist that’s meant for surprises didn’t strayed too far from the line I had drawn for it before. But at the very least, it kept itself simple enough. You know, the kind of movie that knows it wasn’t meant to dazzle you with convoluted conspiracies. So instead it settled for one that didn’t take much to understand. Instead, it swept me off my feet with spectacles.

I reckon it’s apparent by now that I do got a type, and xXx falls on the positive end of my “looks” spectrum. And not because of Vin Diesel. Oh he did looks great, doing all those crazy stunts and flexing those muscles. But he’s your typical “tough guy with a heart of gold”, a personification of what most people would view as “Alpha Male” who always get the girl(s) everywhere he goes. You know, run of the mill Vin Diesel’s character that really didn’t took much effort for him to play. I was more intrigued by the other – surprisingly diverse – casts. Deepika Padukone stole my breath from the first moment she came on screen with that split. Her Serena was heavy on the femme fatale trope, but at least she got a more or less clear motivation. Then there’s Ruby Rose’s Adele, whom honestly is a wet dream comes true. Seriously. She’s hot, she’s tough as nails, she couldn’t care less about your bullshit, she got no qualms shooting anything that moves, and she fucking flirted with a double entendre. Fuck yes. Plus, there’s Nina Dobrev’s Becky. A very cute and adorable fangirl surrogate. Who should really ends up with Adele. Please.

But of course, the most important of all was Donnie Yen. If you think he’s fluffy and charming in Rogue One, then you’ve got no chance against him here. Because holy shit, he was hot. He’s always dressed to kill – unless in those island scenes with that floral shirt though he somehow still make it works – and a personification of “kicking ass with class”. Each and every one of his action scenes sent chills down my spine. I mean, he actually uses his leather jacket as props and boy where did my pants go? Character wise, his Xiang was so thinly written, clearly used as a foil for Xander Cage with no proper motive or background story. But Donnie Yen was good enough to make him likeable and intriguing. So you know, a sequel (let’s be honest, there will surely be a sequel) with more spotlight on him is in order. Everyone else was just okay. Samuel L. Jackson played his archetypal role, Toni Collette played a typical government agent with a stick up her ass and totally grey morality, while Tony Jaa was eye-catching mostly because his Dance Dance Revolution character was annoying. Even his get up was annoying – made him looks like one of those alay kids from the neighboring complex. My guilty pleasure, though, was Kris Wu. I know his Nicks really did nothing aside from starting up parties and shooting people, but he was one of my bias during his EXO days so I’m bound to be biased. I’m just happy to see an ex-SM kid doing well, okay. Unlike a certain ex-Super Junior who was totally a glorified cameo on Transformers: Age of Extinction, Kris’s Nicks actually got quite a lot screen time and played a part. Once. I did say he’s a guilty pleasure.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage made good use of them, though. D.J. Caruso got them doing all kind of stunts that exploits their physical prowess and attributes. He knows well enough to not let the needless drama rain over the adrenaline rush. So he used a heist and extreme sport stunt to started shits up, followed by more and more, well, mind boggling exploits. Some are over the top and downright “what the fuck” inducing, like a motorcycle that turns into motor-ski and the subsequent chase scene in the sea. But some – notably most of Donnie Yen’s action scenes – are thrilling. Plus, for as much of a dumb movie as it is, I appreciate the notion of “rebels against tyrants” that F. Scott Frazier injected in the story. It’s paper thin and merely an afterthought, but it’s a nice touch. Especially considering current states of affair in Uncle Sam. It felt weirdly apt to question whether or not the government could be trusted with such powerful device. And even more so to have a band of ethnically and culturally diverse “heroes” saving the world. I’d say it’s a pretty nice thing to watch, even.

Just like Chris Hemsworth in Ghostbusters, xXx: Return of Xander Cage is a delicious eye candy. Filled with gratuitous shot and galore of gorgeous spectacle, it’s a satiating watch that knows how to please. For a mindless fun entertainment, it got surprisingly diverse characters and a nod to frame of thoughts that I could easily agree with. Donnie Yen, Ruby Rose, and Deepika Padukone slays so hard you’ll probably need to bring an extra pair of pants. After all, it knows how to do fanservice. Plus, Kris Wu looks good.

Director: D.J. Caruso. Writer: F. Scott Frazier. Released on: 18 January 2017. Casts: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, Tony Jaa, Rory McCann, Toni Collette, Samuel L. Jackson.


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