xXx: Return of Xander Cage: No “It’s Dumb Fun” Free Passes Here. This Blows.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Plot Summary:

When a dangerous weapon called Pandora’s Box is stolen from the CIA by a gang of highly trained criminals, xXx agent Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is brought out of hiding to bring the weapon back safe and sound.

“I’m not a soldier. I’m a baller.”

That’s just one of the immortal lines from the mind-numbing xXx: Return of Xander Cage. In 2016, we experienced a lot of bad blockbusters. In a way, I’m glad this is the first movie I saw this year. I’m setting the tone early. I will have no patience for these types of movies. I’m not going to apologize for it. I’m not going to accept it for what it is.  I’m not going to throw up my hands and say, “Oh, it’s just dumb fun!  Lighten up, dude!” Can we please just call this for what it is – a bad movie. Is that so hard? The acting blows. The direction is a mess. The screenplay is pathetic. It’s nothing personal, but the movie blows complete and utter bags.

I can appreciate a dumb movie. I have a fun bone in my body. I love Armageddon. I love Independence Day. Here’s the difference between those films and Xander Cage. While they are all ridiculously stupid, Armageddon had engaging characters. They were likable. Funny. The performances were good. They had a camaraderie about them, so you could accept the insane space jumping non-sense a lot better.  There’s nothing to enjoy about the opening sequence to Xander Cage. After an awkward Samuel L. Jackson scene, the movie dives head first into loud, obnoxious, poorly edited action. I don’t care about any of this. Everything is annoying. I want to leave the theater. You can’t just dive right into action.  You need some build up. Look at Independence Day. Did that movie start with aliens blowing up cities? No. There was a buildup. A tension. That’s the difference between good fun and bad fun.

Let’s talk about those “stellar” performances. Vin Diesel whatevers his way through the movie. I have nothing else to say. Other than him, the film is infused with characters who are either irritating, or have no personality whatsoever. The movie commits Bad Screenwriting 101, where they literally have to write on the screen what a character’s personality is because they aren’t capable of showing you otherwise. Toni Collette embarrasses herself as generic government official who digs up Xander Cage. This is a bad performance. There’s no other way to put it. The way she reacts and delivers dialogue, it’s just cringe-worthy. I hope Toni Collette was well compensated. Then we have Becky Clearidge, played by Nina Dobrev. For the love of fried matza, this character made me want to dive in front of a BMX bike. She’s like Season One Felicity Smoak on steroids. It’s your friendly neighborhood tech gal who’s annoyingly over excited about everything.  Awful. I don’t blame the actors though. It’s not their fault. D.J. Caruso isn’t exactly the LeBron James of directing.

Were there any performances I liked? Donnie Yen manages to entertain. I actually liked him better here than in Rogue One. At least he’s not spouting off “I am one with the force, the force is with me,” or whatever the hell that piece of filth line was. Ugh. Deepika Padukone was charismatic, but there’s no consistency to her character. She’s serious as hell, but then completely shifts into giggly school girl. Huh? Whatever. The movie doesn’t care. Then we get a surprise cameo who completely comes out of nowhere. They try and explain it with the worst plot device in the history of cinema. Nobody will complain about this, but Bruce Wayne getting back into Gotham City in The Dark Knight Rises was a capital crime.

The action sequences were so hyperactive they lose all meaning. It’s not until they slow things down for a tense standoff between Diesel, Yen and Padukone where I woke up a little, but it’s not enough. This is a complete cluster bleep with Superman IV level special effects. And yes, I understand this is a xXx movie, but I’m still going to complain about the dialogue, alright! Aside from using bad 1993 action movie dialogue, we get a “That’s what she said” joke. Come on!  Seriously? This is why I don’t feel guilty about over reacting.

To put it bluntly, this is a painful movie going experience. The score is nauseating, and the soundtrack sounds like they bashed thirty night clubs together into a big ball of noise. The end tries to pretend like it had a point all along. That’s hilarious. It’s beyond frustrating this film has a higher critical rating than Live by Night. Can we stop grading movies based on expectations?  I’m so fed up!  Why can’t we just call this what it is: bad. No qualifiers. No excuses. If you give these films an inch, they’ll take a mile.  We’ll get something even dumber next time.

Rating: 3.5 out of 10 (Atrocious)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.