'xXx' marks the spot, again

While the latest triple X entry, “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” is dumb, moronic and just plain ridiculous, it is certainly a solid hour and a half adrenaline rush that never let up, even for a split second.

The highlight for me is not star Vin Diesel, rather a Hong Kong martial arts maestro named Donnie Yen.  Yen recently spent time with the “Ip Man” trilogy but like friend and colleague Jackie Chan is constantly behind the scenes and making a variety of action pictures. 

Except for “Jaws,”  I have never witnessed a truly dynamic suspense film that involved the water.  Sure, it is pretty to look at, but nothing involving oceans, lakes or the like has ever enthralled me to no end. 

The only other water-based dynamic movie was “The Poseidon Adventure” in 1972.  Big-named stars Gene Hackman, Red Buttons, Ernest Borgnine and Shelley Winters headlined that ensemble.

It was fun to see Ice Cube returning after starring in “xXx:  State of the Union” (2005). In that one, his Marcus Stone character saved America from bad guy Willem Dafoe.  His presence brings a breath of fresh air to the proceedings in this jumbled piece of popcorn entertainment.

Director D.J. Caruso tries to change that with some ridiculous scenes of ocean action, harkening many years to Mel Brooks’s “Spaceballs.” (1987). That movie refers to “ludicrous speed.”

That is kind of what happens in “xXx:  Return of Xander Cage,” since the comic book stylings are not taken too seriously.  I only bring this up because the hijinks that occur on the ocean are so far-fetched and ludicrous one is baffled by how this went from the written page to the silver screen.

Tony Jaa, like Yen, is used with just the right degree of action. His part is just used to complement the action sequences.  He turns out to be a positive character because he becomes an ally at the end. 

Also surprising is Australian actress Toni Collette.  From the start, she is presented as an ally to Diesel’s xXx character, but along the way, she shifts gears drastically.

As much as I disliked this flick, I cannot complain since I was definitely entertained. 

Like “Point Break,” “Road House” and “The Cutting Edge,” “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” is the epitome of a guilty pleasure.  Sure, it is dumb and stupid, but it is also enjoyable on a certain level.

“xXx: Return of Xander Cage” did what it was supposed to do in that it was just entertaining. It is a fun movie experience because the visual eye candy translates well to the big screen.

Grade:  C+