I was a huge fan of the 1990s film “Flatliners” so of course I was skeptical about this reboot. The new version isn’t completely awful and stays relatively true to the source material, but it has some of the worst acting and most basic dialogue I’ve seen in a Hollywood thriller in years. At times the writing gets so laughable that it reaches near “Showgirls” proportions, making it a performance train wreck that is full of campy goodness.
Even worse is the amount of missed potential at play, with countless opportunities to improve on the original completely squandered. The story is the same and the premise is a good one, but nothing ever clicks. Five promising medical students attempt to solve the mystery of what happens to humans after death by killing and then reviving themselves. As each one visits the afterlife and creates their own near-death experience, the sins of their past manifest themselves as terrifying visions that begin to drive the young doctors crazy.
The film could’ve taken this premise and made a horrific thriller, but this is a tame PG-13 wannabe horror flick, It’s not going to terrify anyone save for a few startling jump scares.
Unintentionally funny is the phrase that immediately comes to mind, especially in relation to the performances (in particular the turns from Nina Dobrev and Kiersey Clemons). I laughed out loud when I watched the characters administer CPR — there was zero attempt to even try to make their movements look real and instead they just stood there moving their bodies with the silliest shakes. If George Clooney could do it on “E.R.,” then actors in a big budget movie should be able to make it look real.
Ellen Page and James Norton are better in their roles than they need to be, but nearly everything about this movie feels superficial and indifferent. It’s as if the movie is bored with itself.
You have to love a balls-to-the-wall action flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” is outrageous, mindless fun. This is an insane adrenaline fest fueled by massive shootouts, fiery explosions, and extreme skateboarding. It’s packed with cartoonish stunts and playful humor, all adding to its irresistibly rambunctious spirit.
The presumed dead secret agent Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is back to save the world like an intense, badass, tattooed James Bond. This time he has to recruit his own team of slightly insane buddies (including Rory McCann and Deepika Padukone) to help him fight the bad guys and reclaim a secret weapon known as Pandora’s Box.
The plot is basic and no new ground is covered as far as Hollywood big budget action movies go, but it’s the film’s tongue-in-cheek style that is so deliciously amusing. Case in point: each character is introduced with a sarcastic title card that gives their personal stats, including things like their “favorite movie” and their “go-to karaoke song.”
There are a couple of familiar faces that show up (including regulars Samuel L. Jackson and Ice Cube), along with fresh newcomers Nina Dobrev (who is very, very funny as a mousy CIA agent who is easily impressed by sizable muscles) and Toni Collette (wickedly hamming it up as the government lady in charge). There’s some astonishingly polished stunt choreography from martial artist Donnie Yen as well as several delightful, whimsically staged scenes like a table full of firebrands playing hot potato with a trio of live grenades and a raucous brawl that breaks out onboard a free falling cargo plane in a nosedive.
This film may be loud and ridiculous, but it’s also tons of fun. I had a smile on my face throughout, and many of the creative and thrilling action pieces had me cheering out loud. This is the perfect display of mindless, escapist action cinema, and “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” proves there’s lots of life left in the franchise. I can’t wait to watch this movie again.