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xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

Paramount Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 5/16/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/23/2017

At DVDSleuth.com headquarters, we receive a lot of information about upcoming Blu-ray Disc and 4K UHD releases. And while we would like to review every release, sometimes we are forced to pick and choose which titles we feature. Every once in a while, we decide to take a chance on something, such as jumping in on a series or franchise having not seen the other films. Is this a good idea? Well, that would depend on the series. If we're talking about the kind of movies which end on cliffhangers and the subsequent film picks up where the last one ended, then that may be ill advised. But, I didn't have any trepidations entering a series which comes around every few years and features different characters, so I dove head first into xXx: Return of Xander Cage.

A device called "Pandora's Box" has been stolen from a U.S. intelligence agency. This piece of hardware can cause satellites to fall from the sky, hitting a specific target. Jane Marke (Toni Collette) tracks down former XXX agent Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) and asks for his help. Cage ignores Marke's take on a team and puts together his own group of sidekicks -- Adele Wolff (Ruby Rose), a sharp-shooter; Tennyson Torch (Rory McCann), a semi-skilled driver; and Nicks (Kris Wu), a DJ (?). They travel to the Philippines, where they encounter a shady character named Lazarus (Nicky Jam). Once there, the team realize that they aren't the only ones after Pandora's Box. Thus begin a race to find the real device and stop any more satellites from raining down on unsuspecting victims.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage is yet another in a recent trend of belated sequels. The original xXx, which starred Diesel, debuted in 2002. This was followed by xXx: State of the Union in 2005, which saw Ice Cube take over the lead role. So, someone decided that it was time to revive the franchise and bring Diesel back. There's no doubt that the Furious films, of which Diesel is a key part, have continued to perform very well at the box office, but his solo efforts haven't fared so well. 2015's The Last Witch Hunter cost a reported $90 million to make, but only brought in $27 million in the U.S. xXx: Return of Xander Cage would suffer a similar fate, as it had a budget of $85 million and a return of $44 million. Yes, that's a better percentage than The Last Witch Hunter, but it's presumably not what the producers were expecting.

So, why did xXx: Return of Xander Cage under-perform? That's a question that we can hope to answer, but it's certainly a good one. Didn't the movie give the people what they wanted? Again, I haven't seen xXx, but based on the clips which I've seen, this new movie should have satisfied the fans. We've got extreme-sports based stunts, such as snow-skiiing through a jungle or riding a motor-cycle on water. There's also a parkour-filled foot-race, as well as some stunt-driving. The movie also contains some more spectacular stunt work, such as a fight inside of plane. These action sequences are combined with cheesy one-liners from Cage, who crosses the globe to find this pimp-like fur coat.

Isn't that what the fans were looking for? Or have movies like Kingsman surpassed what a xXx movie can offer? Or are people simply unwilling to give up their hard-earned money to see a Vin Diesel vehicle? Again, we can't answer that question, but I can tell you that xXx: Return of Xander Cage is probably the best movie that it can be. Director D.J. Caruso has made a career of making forgettable, but serviceable action films, and he certainly keeps things moving along at a nice clip here. The movie rarely pauses between action sequences, which is probably a good thing, as the plot is nebulous at best. The idea of a apathetic hipster version of James Bond is sort of an interesting one, if that's your cup of tea. For those who liked xXx 15 years ago, but decided to skip this one, will want to check it out. Those who like their spy movies with a bit more brain power may want to look elsewhere.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage presents some very questionable physics on 4K UHD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc offers a 2160p HD transfer. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look extremely good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture is very sharp, showing a genuine crispness which delivers a high level of detail and a nice amount of depth. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos 7.1 audio track which provide clear dialogue and sound effects. The action sequences deliver outstanding stereo and surround effects which bring us detailed sounds, most notably from the rear channels. The stereo effects highlight sounds coming from off-screen, and the subwoofer effects punctuate every gunshot, punch, and explosion.

The extras for xXx: Return of Xander Cage are found on the accompanying Blu-ray Disc. "Third Time's the Charm: Xander Returns" (8 minutes) has the film's Writer, Director, and Producers discussing what it was like to re-visit the Xander Cage character and the challenge of recapturing the spirit of the first film. "Rebels, Tyrants & Ghosts: The Cast" (20 minutes) gives an overview of the main characters from the movie and offers interviews with the cast members, who discuss their experiences on the film. "Opening Pandora's Box: On Location" (16 minutes) takes us on-set to see the movie being shot in places like the Dominican Republic and how the production design and sets brought the film to life. "I Live for this Sh#t!: Stunts" (15 minutes) offers an inside look at how the insane gags were accomplished on the film, including the use of visual effects and rehearsals. Finally, we get a 2-minute GAG REEL.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long