After the one-two punch of Pitch Black and The Fast and the Furious put him on the map, Vin Diesel cemented himself as Hollywood’s new breakout action star in 2002’s xXx, which earned $277 million at the box office. Watching it now, it’s almost painfully early 2000s, but the leading man and director Rob Cohen knew exactly what kind of movie they were making, leaning into the camp with a wink towards the audience.
Sequel State of the Union subbed Diesel for Ice Cube and the results weren’t great, with the follow up getting roundly panned by critics and failed to recoup its budget in theaters. However, because everyone knows that nobody loves starring in franchises more than Vin Diesel, he eventually circled back around to the series for the first time in fifteen years with Return of Xander Cage.
Is it a good movie? Absolutely not. Is it an entertaining one? You bet your ass it is. Roping in an ensemble cast to occupy the middle ground between Mission: Impossible and Austin Powers, the threequel is a completely nonsensical exercise in exaggerated set pieces and ridiculous action sequences, but director D.J. Caruso leans into the absurdity of the premise, which was far and away the smartest thing to do.
It doesn’t make a lick of sense and some of the plot machinations are head-slappingly stupid, but it’s a good time nonetheless. xXx: Return of Xander Cage would haul in almost $350 million globally, leading to a fourth installment entering development. We haven’t seen it yet, but the last one is finding a new lease of life on Netflix, where it’s currently the tenth most-watched title on the content library around the world.