Saturday, March 18, 2017

xXx: Return of Xander Cage



Consider this. Vin Diesel a.k.a Xander Cage did the first movie. For reasons that included wanting new horizons he avoided doing the second; Ice Cube took over. Now at 49 having nothing but the Fast and the Furious franchise to carry him – Paul Walker dead – Vin goes back to xXx.  Xander ceases to be a lone wolf makes himself a team of daredevils and thrill seekers.

Going to the car movie remember Vin Diesel did Furious 1, skipped 2 and 3 – unless you count cameo in Tokyo Drift – and resurrected the franchise successfully in Furious 4. When Paul Walker died the franchise enjoyed record gross in Furious 7 perhaps partly due to the fact that Paul who hadn’t shot major scenes was still in the story. Furious 8 this April 2017 will be the first outing without any semblance of Paul – I think.

Can lightning strike twice for Vin Diesel?

The story of the Return of Xander Cage starts like the first one if I remember it correctly. There is a great danger in the world and the trained soldiers and agents are not good enough. The xXx project is destroyed. What the theme of the franchise is playing at is that all the rigid training however good the soldier it bore fruit is still rigid.  Caged to follow orders and think within the box.

Remnants of the program thus successfully hunt out who they never thought was dead, Xander Cage, and convince him to help.  The mission is to recover Pandora’s Box which essentially is a master key for any and all satellites. Xander’s handlers now insist he take on a team and illustrating an army regular’s lack of original thought, he disposes of his would be helper’s quickly. Instead he gets permission to round up a team of daredevils, adrenaline junkies and similar free spirits.

Like Furious the existence of those other daredevils and adrenaline junkies is the building of a subculture where potential friends and rivals exist; where groups of people can be friendly to them. 

In the earlier Furious movies this is highlighted by the drag racing scene and then it became parties and then it became enemies with penchant for high performance cars. For xXx, Xander requests Nicks (Kris Wu) to film him doing one of the movies most critical maneuver and the team’s wheel-man Tennyson (Rory McCann) took a selfie highlighting a milestone in car crashes. The urge to document at least means they had followers.

Plus there is party scene strangely located – story wise at least – Philippines (I am one by the way) that can accommodate the likes of Xander and that it doesn’t even have one Filipino or at least Asian looking patron. This subculture if you call it that has places to hang out in all over the world.

By the end of the movie the team is a complete package complete with tech support, the comic relief, and a female right hand. There’s even an allusion to family: “X takes care of its own.”

Aside from the similarities between the two movies the (re)intro sequence of Xander Cage stuck on my mind.  Don’t take me wrong Vin Diesel’s body is infinitely better than mine even during the age when fats and carbs weren’t so clingy. But here being bald that he is, skateboarding down the mountain; he looked rounder than usual. Age is catching up.  Skin however firmed up by the gym starts to sag. What was once a nice beautiful grape is turning into a raisin.

How Vin Diesel can move away or at least diversify his selling points away from the physical bruiser who needs to get his shirt off every so often will determine his career at this stage. 

Can he do it with xXx? I don’t think so.  The movie is too fast and too furious for me – a copy.