The Process in Chaos (Patriots Day, 2017)

patriots-day-posterPeter Berg’s Patriots day is one of those films where going in, it may feel a bit like a “Rah Rah America!” exercise in propaganda.  And while, to a certain extent, it may very well be, it is also one of Berg’s better efforts.

Patriots Day is the story of the Boston Marathon bombing and the manhunt that ensued for the Tsarnaev brothers.  The film is most effective in how it is not about “one guy” in all of it.  Mark Wahlberg’s Tommy Saunders is our eyes for much of the film, but it takes detours to give us insights into the people impacted who were not part of the manhunt.  And this works very nicely, even if, at the beginning, it feels a bit like “Why are we meeting this person?”

This leads to one of the most powerful aspects of the film.  It captures the absolute chaos of those couple of days.  The intense search for leads o catch the brothers, the desperation of the brothers to escape, the evil that they were willing to for their “cause”.  The horror of the people hurt in the bombing trying to find loved ones they have been separated.  This is all extremely well done.

The one moment to take me out of the film, however, was what felt like a mini-documentary in which the actual people spoke on camera.  I get that it may be a tribute…but it really felt like Berg did not trust the audience to have the “correct mindset” exiting the film.  It also distracted me because there is no interview or mention of Tommy Saunders and his wife.  This is because they do not exist.  They are a combination of people.  Had there been no “Here are the real people” moment, this would not have stood out so glaringly for men.

However, this is really a minor issue for an otherwise strong film.

Refueled (xXx: Return of Xander Cage, 2017)

xxx-roxc-poster12 years after the franchise stalled, comes an attempt to revitalize it.  Director D.J. Caruso (Disturbia) takes the reigns as Vin Diesel returns to the role of Xander Cage.  This time around, the idea is…”if one Bond is awesome…imagine if we had nine of them!”  Xander has been presumed dead, but when the CIA is hit by some highly skilled enemy agents who steal a dangerous weapon, they find Xander hiding out.

This time around, Cage sets up his own xXx team.  These are highly skilled extreme types. And they get a government agent assigned to them.  A cute and plucky girl named Becky.  She is also their “Q”.  On their way to retrieve the weapon, Cage and friends end up discovering he is up against other xXx agents that were recruited by Samuel L. Jackson’s Gibbons.  This ultimately leads to all the agents teaming up to take down the real bad guys.

The xXx films are pretty much “What if Bond was on steroids.”  Except this film.  The Return of Xander Cage is really “What if xXx was on steroids???”  It seems like the last 40 minutes were non-stop action and a Gospel Choir.

This film does not totally rewrite the book.  Instead, it is more of a blending of the Bond formula and the Fast & the Furious.  It is exciting and fun, and if you enjoyed the first two films, it is unlikely you will be disappointed by this one.  I would totally be in for the entire cast (those who make it out alive) to return for another round.

Franchise Adjustment (xXx: State of the Union)

xxx-sotu-posterSo, one year before Casino Royale, xXx is back.  Vin Diesel is not, but yeah, the Franchise soldiers on.  Although both Diesel and  Rob Cohen were both signed on, they eventually dropped out.  In a bit of irony, the film is directed by the director of Die Another Day, Lee Tamahori.  Replacing Diesel’s Xander Cage as the new xXx is Ice Cube’s Darius Stone.

Samuel L. Gibson’s Gibbons is back in charge, and they face a situation that requires someone tougher than Cage.  That is Darius Stone.  Stone is a highly decorated Marine who tried standing up to his corrupt commanding officer and was locked up for it.  Stone is pretty much a one man army, as evidenced by his prison escape.

It turns out, his former CO is part of a dark plot that needs Stone, as xXx, to take him and his cronies down.  And that is pretty much it.  Like it’s predecessor, State of the Union is mostly a showcase for outrageous stunts and action sequences.  And snappy comebacks.  Ice Cube is always reliable for attitude fueled quips.

The film was very obviously setting itself up for a sequel, setting the franchise up to have a different actor in the role each film.  This seems like a setup of necessity.  This is a serviceable sequel with the expected performances from it’s cast.  If you are looking for deep espionage, xXx: State of the Union is not going to be all that satisfying.  It is, however, a pretty fun popcorn action spy movie.

Breaking Bond (xXx, 2002)

xxx_posterVin Diesel was a star on the rise.  2000 to 2002 really cemented him as a certain type of action star.  He had a hit with the Fast and the Furious.  He followed up with the action spy thriller xXx.  The film re-teamed Diesel with his The Fast and the Furious Director Rob Cohen.

As spy movies go, the clear inspiration here is James Bond.  It follows that template closely.  There is the M (Gibbons, played by Samuel L. Jackson), the Q, the gadgets and the girls.  And of course, the Bond.  Diesel’s Xander Cage is an attempt to flip the Bond formula on it’s head.  He has no real interest in being a warrior for his country.  Xander is a popular Extreme Sports guy and anarchist who does not suffer fools lightly.  His first act is to steal and trash the car of an anti-video game senator.

Xander is pushed by Gibbons to join the Triple X program, as a super spy.  He tracks down and engages with the bad guys, meets a girl who may or may not be on the side of good.  The story is not the star here.  It is Diesel and the stunts.  It is a showcase for exciting and death defying acts.  And Diesel has a certain charm as the tough guy who walks that line of heroic but driven by ego.

This came out the same year as the final Brosnan Bond film Die Another Day.  That film put the Bond Franchise to sleep for a few years.  xXx is not a classic, but it definitely had fun with the formula, making for an enjoyable ride.

Blog at

Up ↑