Entertainment Movie Reviews 14 Jan 2017 XXX-Return of Xander ...

XXX-Return of Xander Cage movie review: Imagine there are no countries

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | ANUJ MALHOTRA
Published Jan 14, 2017, 2:04 am IST
Updated Jan 14, 2017, 7:46 am IST
There is no other sequence in which the film’s suspicion of traditional authority is made more explicit.
Still from the movie XXX: Return of Xander Cage.
 Still from the movie XXX: Return of Xander Cage.
Rating:

Cast: Vin Diesel, Deepika Padukone, Donnie Yen

Director: D.J. Caruso

 

Close to the end of the first-third of XXX: Return of Xander Cage, we see a rave party, located upon a beach in the distant Philippines transpire: there is hard liquor, dirty trance, women in two-pieces who gyrate in chorus and premium ammunition.

Within a minute, cardboard Russian choppers fly in onto the scene, soldiers disembark and the revellers are held at gunpoint. We discover soon that they are standard-order Russians (a character ascribes template names to them as well) — traditional villains; their authority manifest through iconography: uniforms, gear, call-signs, regimental hierarchy, neat files and assigned positions. An ancient, martial order exerts itself upon the formless chaos of the party-event: Dionysius held under duress by Apollo. There is no other sequence in which the film’s suspicion of traditional authority is made more explicit.

In its post-national universe, late-20th century concepts of territorial demarcations, local language and national currency have been rendered obsolete by contemporary technology. Our hero — an American — unites with a Chinese, a South African, an Indian to take on a mythical, largely absent villain. His modus operandi exists too in an embrace of the abstract: he literally causes satellites to drop from the sky, thereby rendering the threat omnipresent. To stem this, Xander Cage and his team must get hold of and then destroy an instrument of great power: a plastic pencil box from the film’s prop department.

Early on in the film, when a state-agent locates Cage in order to be able to recruit him into the mission, she pleads to his love for the country. This provokes an exchange that is interesting for the insight it provides into the dilemma that plagues Hollywood in this age of uber-globalisation. This crisis is unique to it — no other film industry in the world faces this problem, for no other film industry in the world has the privilege of this crisis. As our protagonist walks towards the exit of the building, the agent appeals, “What about your patriotism?” to which Cage responds, “There are no patriots; there are the oppressed, and there are tyrants.” This causes the film to erect a fundamental, comic-book logic that will govern the rest of the proceedings. We will spend the majority of our time in the company of our heroes anti-establishment figures, fugitives, law-breakers, contraband smugglers, wildlife activists, while the villainy will be embodied by the terror of the masculine universe of the film: a stern, highly professional boss woman who never smiles.

This trivialisation will extend to its depiction of violence: characters fall from the fourth floor, jump from mid-air collisions without parachutes, or pass an active grenade to each other in a strange, dinnertime roulette. Cage frowns and the senior rewords, “Just kick ass and get the girl.” It is a film borne out of extensive market surveys: in its dismissal of the ideas of nationhood and politics. XXX’s latest instalment seems to revitalise the old, seemingly lazy, but sinister excuse: “Relax, it’s just a movie!”

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