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.

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.

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