xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE. Directed by D.J. Caruso, with Vin Diesel, Deepika Padukone, Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Samuel L. Jackson, Kris Wu, Toni Collette, Ruby Rose and Ice Cube.

Review: Jane Mayne

It’s hard to say who ever thought that shaggy old yak hair coat was a good idea. Or is it goat? My only guess is it’s a foil to offset Vin’s top-shine. My immediate compulsion is to stuff it in a washing machine for a good long soak. Or better still, impale the brute who butchered the animal in the first place. But clothing’s not the focus point here – and what we need to see is Vin’s pecs in EVERY shot, followed by repeated vertical slow-mo’s of Padukone’s tight torso – whenever there’s a lull in firepower.

Apparently the 2002 debut of the blockbuster xXx franchise grossed over $350M worldwide.  And the upside of this Return can be tallied on one hand – some great sports action stunts; 3D cinematography that improves on the likes of Star Wars: Rogue One and a few musical inserts by Brian Tyler and Robert Lydecker that standout in the second half.

Diesel as Xander Cage has presence onscreen, it’s just unfortunate the film-makers couldn’t coax more than one expression out of this cocky Kojak. What you’re stripped down to is: brawn, brawn, brawn.

During filming the women of RXC  were apparently told to ‘think like a lady, act like a dare devil’.

“Vin was always trying to get us to jump on board and do more extreme sports to get into character because it gives you that adrenaline, that edge that they have to have,” says butch-cute Ruby Rose about her prep for this high-octane role. “So he got me a BMX that I took to this skate ramp place and I was doing so well all day – learning these tricks and I was going to go every single day and get really good. And then I just ate it. I couldn’t even walk for like two weeks,” she adds.

Padukone got in on the action as well. “To be trained by the actual military with different kinds of guns and understand how they’re used, their function and how to reload it was so fascinating,” says Padukone. “And it’s something that I learned for this movie but it’s also something I’ve learned for life,” she says.

World wushu champ Donnie Yen adds a touch of class, but overall the most entertaining action scenes take place on a skateboard and a motorbike-cum-ski thing which eventually pans out into a classic surf tube sequence.

In this Return Xander gets to reaffirm that he’s an immensely capable chap who gets a grip in most sticky situations.

He’ll never be Arnie, or Double Oh. Vin is really just his own man.

If you don’t know the story, there’s absolutely no need to go and do research.

What: xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Rating: 10-12 PG L V

Running time: 107 minutes