Overview: The death of an ally brings Xander Cage out of self-imposed exile to stop a series of terrorist satellite attacks. Paramount Pictures; 2017; Rated PG-13; 107 mins.

Fast & Furious: xXx: The Return of Xander Cage reintroduces the audience to Vin Diesel, as Xander Cage over a decade after his last on-screen appearance, in a scene where he gives a rude finger gesture to the authorities as he launches himself from a radio tower in order to “save” a local town. It’s the ecstatic smile Diesel sports as his character performs this stunt that sets the tone for the entire film. Diesel isn’t portraying the tender and honorable big man, as he does as Dominic Toretto in the Fast & Furious films. Instead, Diesel’s Xander Cage is an unapologetically fun thrill-seeker in an unapologetically fun thrill ride of an action film.

“There are no patriots anymore, just rebels and tyrants,” says Cage as he initially rejects the job offer that becomes the main plot of xXx: Return of Xander Cage. It’s an interesting claim the film makes, a claim that the film makes sure to explore in ways you’d expect from an action film that features a motorcycle chase on water. The film essentially comes to the conclusion that while there are no more patriots, there are still quite a few physically fit people who just want to do good deeds. This is seen in Cage’s introduction, as the town cheers him on as he commits a crime in order to provide the town with basic cable. It’s also seen in every twist and turn of allegiances.

It turns the head a little bit on the stereotypical “good” or “righteous” character by having the “good” characters work against each other at times, or even work with the “bad” characters, but by the end shows how the power of innate goodness triumphs when brought together (and when combined with physical fitness). It’s cheesy, but in a sincere and inspiring way. Fundamentally, it’s not all that different from what’s to be found in a good Captain America or Superman movie. xXx: Return of Xander Cage could also be easily compared to a feature-length version of the scene in Fast & Furious 6 where Vin Diesel literally flies and catches his girlfriend mid-air.

Suicide Squad: Aside from Diesel getting to show off just how charismatic and entertaining he is to watch, xXx: Return of Xander Cage is comprised of a talented, equally-entertaining supporting cast. The standouts being Donnie Yen, who looks like he just had loads of fun playing a distinguishably superior semi-antagonist, Ruby Rose, and Nina Dobrev. However, each and every character does get their individual sequences to shine and entertain. None of them are bogged down by intricate back stories that convolute the main plot, because most of the crew’s purpose on the team and in the film is to populate both the team and the film with more fun and eccentric characters – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage is quite streamlined into being the most exciting, fun, and satisfying possible version of itself. The film rarely misses an opportunity for a laugh or an expressed “wow”. There’s a visual introduced at the very start of the film that the filmmakers make use of in introducing new characters, and they actually found a way to make that result in some pay off in the actual narrative towards the end, to which I was really surprised by. xXx: Return of Xander Cage puts a lot of weight into its visual gags and/or running jokes, which results in an incredibly satisfying third act that’s just full of pay offs.

Overall: xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is the inauguration of 2017 action films, with Vin Diesel’s Xander Cage, an action hero who has fun doing good for his fellow people, at center spotlight. Hopefully, the other action films this year follow in his example.

Grade: B

Featured Image: Paramount Pictures