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xXx Return of Xander Cage: Bland American masala

A still from 'xXx Return of Xander Cage'.

A still from 'xXx Return of Xander Cage'.

When it comes to hardcore action flicks, there’s no such thing as polishing boiler plate scripts in Hollywood. Let’s be honest, we really do not walk into a film like xXx: Return of Xander Cage to witness any reinvention or renaissance of its genre. But is it too much to even ask for more adrenaline than the prequels?

These films undoubtedly offer the best platform for executing the craziest stunt ideas. Sure, you have base jumping from tall TV towers, skiing through Amazonian rainforests (is that a first?) and punches delivered from a dirt bike’s wheels. And one of the most creative sniper shots to the head. As Hamlet would have said after viewing xXx’s third franchise, the rest is cheesy dialogue.

For Indian viewers, however, the special significance this film holds must not be pushed behind. Deepika Padukone as the unpretentiously Indian-accented Serena Unger looks every bit convincing as a femme-fatale agent. She can draw her knife as quick as Vin Diesel’s Xander Cage can, and operate complex tracking systems that perplexes even their resident white nerd. I just restrained myself from making a joke about Indians and computers. She’s also predictably there to plant a kiss on Xander, so her real-life countrymen can hoot and clap.

I’m not sure if the idea of crashing a satellite down on your enemies by remote control is a novel one, but the sequences of fighting in near-zero gravity and grabbing hold of a parachute mid-air to land with a thud seem like underwhelming rehashes from Inception and Eraser (respectively). Donnie Yen as Xiang was more enjoyable as he furiously kung-fus his way through the baddies. He’s probably the closest thing to Jackie Chan for the present generation.

The supporting cast hardly leave an impression. If this film were a monologue someone mouthed, they would be the “umm”, “uhh” and “err” every once in a while before something meaningful is said. And sometimes in ultra-slow motion, just for the kicks.

The rules, otherwise, have remained steadfast since the series was conceived in 2002: xXx agents have bones made of reinforced steel that do not break even after being hit by speeding cars; bullets will remain to be pumped only through the bulletproofed chests of the good guys (a headshot takes out all the fun, right?) and villains have not let go of their habitual pep talk when they have guns pointed at the hero. I only wish they learn from Tuco in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly : “When you have to shoot … shoot! Don’t talk!”


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Printable version | Mar 17, 2022 9:30:04 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/xXx-Return-of-Xander-Cage-Bland-American-masala/article17036875.ece