xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (xXx – Returns), finally hit the theaters on 14th January. And let’s be honest, Deepika Padukone is the only reason why most people in India care about this film.

Genre :- Action/Adventure
Run-time :- 1 hr 48 mins.
Cast :- Vin Diesel, Deepika Padukone, Nina Dobrev, Ruby Rose, Donnie Yen, Samuel L Jackson, Kris Wu, Toni Collete, Tony Jaa, Hermione Corfield, Al Sapienza, Rory McCann
Cameo by Neymar and Ice Cubes.

Director :-  D. J. Caruso.

Plot – After seemingly portraying himself as dead, athlete turned government operative Xander Cage, returns from the self-imposed exile to save the world from getting doomed, by an unstoppable weapon known as the Pandora’s Box. And for the mission, he recruits a new group of thrill seekers, who together help him fight the deadly alpha warrior, Xiang.
Direction and Screenplay :- With all due respect, you simply can’t understand what went through the makers head while constructing the film. Because this film, sure doesn’t feel like the ones from the xXx franchise. It is more like, “Characters? Check. Humor? Check. Glamour? Check. Pulsating BG music? Check. Mind blowing VFX and Action sequences? Check. Exotic locations? Check. Yeah, Movie made. But wait. Where’s the story? Let us just add some boilerplate (standardized/clichéd) script and try to seam it together with the basic prevent-the-world-from-doomsday, scenario.” *Sighs* There are occasional shaky camera scenes, enough to make you feel uncomfortable. *Migraine alert* The screenplay by F. Scott Frazier and Rich Wilkes is below average for such an esteemed franchise. Sure you have got the other bits right, but what about the basic plot, mate? As far as the writing is concerned, xXx – Returns is a disappointment.
Editing and Cinematography :- Vince Filippone and Jim Page’s editing is rather erratic than fine. It feels as if it has been edited by a novice (first-timer) because of the pretty visible glitches in exactly six scenes. Yes, I counted it.
Cinematographer Russell Carpenter did an amazing job playing with the lightings and locations. It is well lit, well shot with all the color graphs in proportion.
Music :- Robert Lydeckar and Brian Tyler (notable works being Thor, Iron Man and F&F) set the bar high right from opening sequence. The scintillating background music is the best thing in the whole film.
The Highs –
▶ The previous versions of the same franchise have done enough rule breaking and new dimensional action sequences. So it would be difficult to bring in inventions but the movie manages to pull it off quite well. The satellite crashing scene, near zero-gravity fight in the air are well thought and impressively executed.

▶ This film undoubtedly offers the best to an action movie lover because of the crazy stunts. Here you have characters jumping from tall TV towers, skiing through Amazonian rain-forests (Yes, skiing!), punches delivered from a dirt bike’s wheels and Xander’s niche – skating like a thunderbolt following the pattern of The Flash. Oh! And you certainly would get to see one of the most creative sniper shots to the head.

▶ The Music is lit. It sets your heart racing simultaneously in sync with the happenings in the film.

▶ The way the filmmakers let Deepika speak with a honest-to-goodness accent is commendable.

The Lows –
▶The film showcases many instances wherein you can rest back leaving the logic behind. Like, characters falling from the fourth floor and getting zero scratches and playing ‘wheel of fortune’ by passing active grenades to each other during dinner time.

** Spoiler Alert. Skip to the next point.**
The Plot! There are two teams – Gang A (Good Guys) and Gang B(Bad Guys). A have to regain the Pandora’s Box from B in order to save the world. But B being the villains, won’t give it away easily. Few fights, face to face banters, cat and mouse chases later, all you realize is that the leader of Gang A is a Superhero. An Avenger, to be precise. Because he simply never gets hurt, possesses shitload of swagger and seems to have it all figured out. So absurd, it’s not even funny.
** Spoiler over **
There is no tension or thrill in the plot line.

▶ I guess it’s high time the villains should let go of their habitual pep talk when they have guns pointed at the hero. When you have to shoot, shoot! Don’t talk! Ffs.

▶ The sequences of fighting in near-zero gravity and grabbing hold of a parachute mid-air seem like underwhelming replays from ‘Inception’ and ‘Die Another Day.’ Even the introduction of the team members are done in ‘Suicide Squad’ esque manner. There is nothing in xXx: Return of Xander Cage that you haven’t already seen and there is not even a fraction thrill.

▶ No back story – Except Vin and Deepika, not even a single character has been given some backstory or character development. Therefore, their existence and potential requirement in the mission raises many eyebrows. We begin to think, how can a DJ possibly help, in killing a team of deadly trained combats? Tell us more about his history! Ugh. Their characters are merely impressions of a DJ (Mystic bagpiper who hypnotized kids, remember?), wildlife activist, retired law breaker to us. This is largely how the plot progresses throughout the movie, jumping from place to place without any explanation.

▶ Cheesy dialogues – The dialogues seem to have been written by a kid who has just entered his teenage. For instance,

Boss – “How did you manage to get such confidential information, so soon?”

Man – “I had to go UNDER-COVER.” (Like, literally. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this.)

In a different scene, Cage tries to boast about his worldly knowledge saying, “There are only two types of people, rebels and tyrants.” Then his boss asks him which one he is, setting up the scene for a powerful dialogue, but Cage says, “I’m xXx.”

(And I am speechless.) *slow claps*

Performances :-

▶ Vin Diesel shines as Xander Cage. It is no wonder that whatever franchise Diesel is added to, will be a crowd puller. xXx is no different, the action sequences are tailor made for Diesel. And he nails it with his gruff voice, perfect delivery, hot bod, action chunks and the innate charm that he has.

▶ Deepika Padukone’s confident attire plants her in the audiences’ minds. As the unpretentiously Indian-accented Serena Unger, Deepika looks every bit convincing as a femme-fatale agent. She can draw her knife as quick as Vin Diesel’s Xander Cage can, which is a win-win. Also, all throughout, she looks ferociously igneous.

▶ Donnie Yen (Refer to the movie – ‘IP Man’) as the antagonist Xiang was more enjoyable as he furiously kung-fus his way through the opposition. He’s probably the closest (okay, remotely close) thing to Jackie Chan for the present generation. To be honest, you will love the antagonist’s action sequences more than that of the protagonist’s.

▶ Toni Collette, as Jane Marke deserved a chance to rock some leather, kick some ass, flaunt her killer eyebrow tilts, but she is just limited to a character that has a plastic delivery and is a highly professional boss woman who never smiles. Meh!

▶ Samuel  L. Jackson does what he does best, playing the leader.

▶ Ruby Rose looks lethal and quite badass with her sexy demeanor and that turquoise-blue hair. And boy she outshone Deepika every time they both were together on the screen. (Her character is a close reminder of Kate McKinnon’s from Ghostbusters: Reboot.)

▶ Nina Dobrev plays the cute nerd who has an expertise in computers. Most of the wise-cracks are placed in her bag and she delivers them very well. Apart from that, she just plays cute.

▶ Kris Wu and Rory McCann are simply used as a filler, which is very disappointing considering their amazing talent.

▶ Tony Jaa, the actor best known for his stunts, is underused. Don’t know him? You should definitely go and watch ‘Ong Bak.’

▶ Neymar has a short but noticeable cameo.

▶Whereas Ice Cube… trust me, you would be all like, “Ice Cube, you the real MVP!” on his entry.

Watch o Not ? Hmm… Maybe. Maybe not.

FINAL VERDICT – (Scroll Below)