Vin Diesel returns as 'secret agent' Xander Cage in this entertainingly cheesy sequel

Fifteen years after the first film, Vin Diesel resurrects his role as Xander Cage in the latest instalment of the xXx franchise.

A mash-up of extreme sports and Roger Moore-level Bond plots, the original film was daft and ridiculous in equal measure.

The Return of Xander Cage doesn't let up in those stakes, after all this is a film where Diesel's Cage rides a modified motorcycle over an ocean.

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The plot, if you can call it that, sees Cage's team of xXx operatives chase Donnie Yen's Xiang and his band of mercenaries across the globe in the hunt for a piece of technology called the Pandora's Box, which can take control of satellites and plunge them into populated areas.

Quite why anyone would want to do this is not clear, but that would be missing the point. It's an implausible set-up, but just one of the reasons why the film has a strangely endearing charm.

Logic and sense soon give way to ludicrous action set-pieces and terrible jokes - tongue is firmly lodged in cheek here.

Though it's a film you're meant to laugh with, not at, the distinction is fuzzy at times. Take it with even an ounce of seriouness and you're bound to have no fun with the hijinks on show.

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Cribbing from Diesel's popular Fast & the Furious franchise, xXx ventures to far-flung destinations such as Brazil, the Philippines and Detroit. This gives Donnie Yen a chance to flex his charm and not just his high kicks.

It's reflected in a diverse cast, which includes Bollywood actress Deepka Padukone, an unrecognisable Tony Jaa, Michael Bisping (the UFC fighter), Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries), Australian actress Ruby Rose (the silent assassin from John Wick 2) and Rory McCann (Game of Thrones' The Hound).

The motley assemblage of actors serve as caricatures, but are fun enough in their roles that they give the film a sense of self-awareness and help keep the tone the right side of daft. We can't get over Kris Wu's Nicks, whose super ability is described as "having a good time".

Director DJ Caruso gives all the characters Suicide Squad-type introductions, which are bonkers, but in keeping with the film. And lest we forget, Barcelona star Neymar Jr makes an appearance too.

More after the break

As an A/V package, Return of Xander Cage is impressive. Its Dolby Atmos track, which downsamples to TrueHD 7.1 if you don't have the appropriate gear, generates an immersive, thunderous soundtrack right from the opening credits.

The surrounds are well done, with foreground and background effects distinct without losing clarity. At one point we thought there was a fly in the room, only to realise it was the film.

Dialogue is prioritised through the centre and, considering the number of accents on display, is clear. The low-end is satisfying and the design of the track itself is impressively layered.

The use of high-tempo comtemporary music makes for a boisterous listen, and in the last big action sequence, the sound of gunfire reverberating is excellent. When Xander Cage goes loud, it goes really loud.

Visually, it's a touch less impressive. Black levels are good, though not quite inky black. Skin tones seem a touch overcooked, but that could be down to the film's orange hue.

Colours are bright and impressively realised and detail levels are consistently good. You can even see skin pores, and if you really want to, what looks like deodorant spray under Vin Diesel's armpits.

The CG does look quite unconvincing in some scenes but, despite that, it's a fun, vibrant looking effort.

Verdict

xXx: Return of Xander Cage is likely to be one of the silliest films of 2017. It is an over-the-top, (intentionally) daft film that takes very little about itself seriously.

It's unlikely to be one you'll want to watch over and over again, but it's a fine-looking, excellent-sounding film nonetheless. If this type of escapist entertainment floats your modified, ocean-riding motorcycle, then there's plenty of enjoyment to be had here.

View xXx: Return of Xander Cage on Blu-ray at Amazon

Bonus

  • Third Time's the Charm: Xander Returns
  • Rebels, Tyrants & Ghosts: The Cast
  • Opening Pandora's Box: On Location
  • I Live for This Sh#t!: Stunts
  • Gag Reel

Duration: 107m

Picture: 2.40:1, 1080p

Audio: Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD 7.1