SUBHASH K JHA reviews Vin Diesel and Deepika Padukone’s performance in xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage
Film: xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage
Director: D.J. Caruso
Cast: Vin Diesel, Deepika Padukone
D.J. Caruso, let’s call him DJ for fun, is a man with a mission. Mission ‘Impassable’. Treading a trickly trippy tactile territory where the slow-drip creativity of the writing team rapidly seeps into the film’s aggressive action rendering it ineffectual and finally redundant, XXX is strictly for fans of Diesel.
They get their money’s worth in his introductory sequence where playing the do-gooder in a Spanish town he steals electrical equipment from on top of a transformer, surf-boards his way through the roads at full speed giving high-fives to the passers-by in cars and trucks, and reaches in time to plug-in the community television for a football game for the kids.
Life is all about the simple pleasures. XXX: The Return Of Xander Cage could well be one of them, provided how simple you like your pleasure.
Diesel’s opening antics tells us what we knew all along. Diesel playing Xander Cage is in this for fun. Director DJ ups the masti quotient to a point where the terror attacks that Cage and his motley team counters appear to be little more than video-games pumped up to be accommodated on the large screen with mammoth garnish that includes a relentlessly orgasmic background score which reminds us to not take the film’s derring-do seriously. Not really.
There is an impressively staged shootout during a global summit against terrorism when a super-skilled marauder crashes through the glass to disrupt the goings-on. DJ knows how turn up the volume. But he doesn’t know how to control the pitch so that the shindigs often get shrill in tone.
Vin Diesel saving the world is a kind of doped-out take on what Tom Cruise and James Bond do on one of their less meaningful days of countering catastrophe. The arch-villains trying to destroy the world in XXX are a bit of a joke. At one point a CIA agent is uncovered as a nuke-planting terrorist. Within minutes, he is swiftly disposed of by Diesel and his team. Momentum be damned.
That brings me to Deepika Padukone. Is she or is she not well represented in her first global appearance? The answer to that is not easy. While she makes an impressive entry into the plot, slipping stealthily through an automatic door before it closes on her (some symbolism in that?) the rest of her role does not allow her the same feline grace. Two others of her female co-stars – Ruby Rose playing a hard-nosed sharp shooter and Nina Dobrev as fast-talking computer nerd – bring far more zing to the table.
And zing, let me tell you, is the thing in XXX. This is a film that beseeches you to set aside all your lofty notions on epic heroism. Saving the world would have never looked more fun had this franchise film only managed to preserve a kind of tongue-in-cheek goofiness that made Deadpool so deadly in its impact.
In XXX: The Return Of Xander Cage I got the feeling that everyone is trying to be sassy and cool, and not quite getting there. The opening in a restaurant has the routinely reliable Samuel L. Jackson trying to convince a young sportsman to join the XXX team. Now, this is supposed to be an outrageously funny sequence meant to lull our senses into a state of heightened submission for the big bang that follows. However, there are many a slip between the corpse and their leaps. The poorly written dialogues and the build-up of sequence from bathos to bang is tragically shaky and uncertain.
Throughout the film the actors are thrown to their own devices while the writers and the director think of bigger better ways to fill up the screen with a voluptuous mayhem. While some of the actors come off pretty well considering the anorexia nervosa that grips the plot, Deepika Padukone sadly doesn’t make it. And Toni Collette playing what looks a send-off on Judi Dench’s “M” is risibly androgynous in her attitude, dress and speech. She typifies the film’s neither-here-nor-there attitude.
The action is first-rate, though. The fight-stunt on the flyover and the highway is so commanding that we almost wish the rest of the film would remain the same. Alas, it is downhill all the way, so much so that when the hijinks suddenly end we find ourselves asking, “Is this it?”
In the climactic finale, a pivotal character watches a prayer-meet for his own death. I somehow felt the other characters doing the same all through. This franchise is actually dead. It is neither funny nor portentous. It’s just a whole lot of skilfully executed spectacle looking for a reason to be loved by an audience that doesn’t want to go away disappointed.
Even cinematographer Russell Carpenter, who did such a brilliant job recently in Parched, cannot seem to make sense of the skimpy resources at his disposal. It’s like trying to fit Deepika Padukone’s never-ending legs into AbRam Khan’s new treehouse.
Nonetheless, if you are willing to go with the furious flow of mindless mojo, you won’t find it hard to enjoy the film.