Opening this week

Film review: Vin Diesel's XXX: Return of Xander Cage has superb stunts and an agile Deepika Padukone

Plot be damned: DJ Caruso’s ‘XXX’ movie is all about extreme action and the multi-national cast.

The opening sequence of XXX: Return of Xander Cage makes it clear that DJ Caruso’s movie will stop short of nothing less than world domination.

Brazilian football star Neymar sits across the table from secret agent Gibbons (Samuel L Jackson) and hears a recruitment pitch that will be familiar to fans of the franchise. In short order, people of many other nations raise their hands and flags to lend the hectically paced action movie the air of a United Nations convention. Donnie Yen (Hong Kong) smashes through glass, Tony Jaa (Thailand) outruns bullets, and our very own Deepika Padukone provides stern-faced back-up.

A thingummyjig that is blowing up communication satellites that survey the earth is stolen, and it’s time for Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), the American working class outlier and occasional patriot, to emerge out of hiding in the Dominican Republic and assemble a team of mavericks from Scotland, Canada, China and Australia. Cage’s global outlook ensures that wherever in the world you may be, you will feel the joy of watching a movie star from your country saving the planet from annihilation.

Deepika Padukone in XXX: Return of Xander Cage.
Deepika Padukone in XXX: Return of Xander Cage.

Extending the multi-racial mix that made the original 2002 film popular, Return of Xander Cage acknowledges that at the very least, Hollywood has to change its insular thinking if it wants to make the kind of films that rake in enough money to feed a small country. The superbly choreographed stunts and jaw-dropping action give every major cast member something to showcase for his or her nation of origin.

Yen, the Hong Kong martial arts star, gets his share of fistfights; Jaa has his Muay Thai moments; Canadian-Chinese actor Kris Wu takes care of two markets in one package; openly lesbian Australian actor Ruby Rose is a shout out to queer audiences as well as women with her ace marksmanship; getaway driver Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane from the Games of Thrones show) reels in television and Scottish fans with the same hook.

Padukone also does India proud by displaying deftness with weapons and catching the eye of Xander while aiming a gun at his hip-bone. After Diesel and Yen, Padukone has the meatiest of roles in the ensemble cast. She isn’t as agile or cool as Rose’s sniper Adele or as funny as technical support operative Becky (Canadian import Nina Dobrev), but she has enough screen time and close-ups to hold her own in a movie that is about the stunts above everything else.

Play
XXX: Return of Xander Cage.

The serviceable and lazily written plot is a rehash of the 2002 film. The fearless extreme sports fanatic Xander Cage is still putting his neck on the line without provocation, using skis on rocky surfaces, riding bikes underwater, and leaping off planes without a parachute. Helpful information cards pop up, as though in a cartoon strip, to introduce each of the key characters to viewers who might be new to the franchise, but Diesel’s antics and insouciance will be familiar to fans of the Fast and Furious films, the most recent of which was a massive hit in India.

The parade of stunts, one more eye-popping than the next, emphasises the ability of the human body to undergo all manner of punishment. A visual joke about Hollywood superhero films, which rely on gadgetry and visual effects to achieve the same effect, is present in the mean-looking pneumatic gloves that an American Army soldier wears to try and punch some sense into Xander. For Xander, his naked fists and wits are all he needs.

Adrenaline junkies with Red Bull in their veins have plenty to chew on in Return of Xander Cage, which never lets logic get in the way of spectacle. As the thingummyjig is located in the industrially depressed town Detroit and the action shifts into the American Red Belt, there is enough time to stop and wonder about just what XXX: Return of Xander Cage is trying to say.

Is this movie aimed at thrill-seekers also taking digs at Donald Trump, secret government surveillance, and anti-immigrant sentiment? Is Toni Collete’s manipulative National Security Agency chief the dour face of all that is wrong with American domestic policy? Are the remarks about true patriots versus government stooges and the statement that “the Central Intelligence Agency will destroy the world” more than just white noise inserted in between the endless stunts?

As pitches for conquering world markets and disgruntled domestic audiences go, Return of Xander Cage does one better than Gibbons’s glib and always successful sales talk.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Watch Ruchir's journey: A story that captures the impact of accessible technology

Accessible technology has the potential to change lives.

“Technology can be a great leveller”, affirms Ruchir Falodia, Social Media Manager, TATA CLiQ. Out of the many qualities that define Ruchir as a person, one that stands out is that he is an autodidact – a self-taught coder and lover of technology.

Ruchir’s story is one that humanises technology - it has always played the role of a supportive friend who would look beyond his visual impairment. A top ranker through school and college, Ruchir would scan course books and convert them to a format which could be read out to him (in the absence of e-books for school). He also developed a lot of his work ethos on the philosophy of Open Source software, having contributed to various open source projects. The access provided by Open Source, where users could take a source code, modify it and distribute their own versions of the program, attracted him because of the even footing it gave everyone.

That is why I like being in programming. Nobody cares if you are in a wheelchair. Whatever be your physical disability, you are equal with every other developer. If your code works, good. If it doesn’t, you’ll be told so.

— Ruchir.

Motivated by the objectivity that technology provided, Ruchir made it his career. Despite having earned degree in computer engineering and an MBA, friends and family feared his visual impairment would prove difficult to overcome in a work setting. But Ruchir, who doesn’t like quotas or the ‘special’ tag he is often labelled with, used technology to prove that differently abled persons can work on an equal footing.

As he delved deeper into the tech space, Ruchir realised that he sought to explore the human side of technology. A fan of Agatha Christie and other crime novels, he wanted to express himself through storytelling and steered his career towards branding and marketing – which he sees as another way to tell stories.

Ruchir, then, migrated to Mumbai for the next phase in his career. It was in the Maximum City that his belief in technology being the great leveller was reinforced. “The city’s infrastructure is a challenging one, Uber helped me navigate the city” says Ruchir. By using the VoiceOver features, Ruchir could call an Uber wherever he was and move around easily. He reached out to Uber to see if together they could spread the message of accessible technology. This partnership resulted in a video that captures the essence of Ruchir’s story: The World in Voices.

Play

It was important for Ruchir to get rid of the sympathetic lens through which others saw him. His story serves as a message of reassurance to other differently abled persons and abolishes some of the fears, doubts and prejudices present in families, friends, employers or colleagues.

To know more about Ruchir’s journey, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Uber and not by the Scroll editorial team.