Pandora's Box is now more than a Greek myth, it is the name given to a device that can redirect satellites out of the sky and down to a target on Earth, destroying or assassinating as the operator sees fit. Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) should be well aware of this capability, for he works as an N.S.A. agent who organises the Triple X team of high level adventurers, ensuring the security of the United States and indeed the world is sustained. However, as he is attempting to recruit a new member, one of the sabotaged satellites hits the restaurant he is in, and his bosses back in America receive the news he has died. This makes it all the more imperative Pandora's Box is retrieved - but other forces have their plans for it.
Who's missing from that equation? Why, it's our old pal Xander Cage, the character Vin Diesel tried to make into the next James Bond, much as many other fictional secret agents had done since Dr. No, but failed with his first instalment, therefore he opted to sit out the sequel. Yet by this stage the star had become very attached to sequels and had more than swallowed his pride, now he was positively embracing the notion of making a series of movies with recurring heroes played by himself, therefore in a move nobody was apparently demanding, he revived Cage for this frankly ludicrous effort. The reaction was one of derision for the most part, since its very idiocy was ammunition to be used against it.
But that reaction was misplaced as here that very preposterousness was not only acknowledged, it was embraced, and indeed became the entire film's raison d'etre. As if everyone involved said to themselves, well, hardly anyone is taking these movies seriously, let's make that the theme and style, and give the audience a spectacle that has no logical sense other than it looked cool in a video game chic sort of way. Therefore we were reintroduced to Cage as he fixed a television mast, jumped off it seemingly to his death but actually to ski down a hill (without snow), then skateboarded away from his pursuers down a road, where he sorted a shanty town's desire to watch football and proceeded to make love to a beautiful woman as an encore.
Now, you did not get Bond doing that, probably because even by the standards of that franchise it was bloody stupid, but here was a statement of intent that you may as well leave your brain at the door, because this was going to be dedicated to the ridiculous. This rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, and it was true the ambition did not quite match the effects budget (which nevertheless must have been substantial) rendering much of what we watched cartoonishly farcical, but if you were on board with that almost self-parodying entertainment then you might find yourself cracking a smile and actually enjoying yourself. It was certainly an improvement over the first two entries which took themselves terribly seriously and therefore were all too easy to sneer at when they fell short, as with this they had settled on the right tone.
The elephant in the room (or on the motorbike that can ride over the waves of the ocean) was that other, more successful series of movies Mr Diesel had taken the lead in, The Fast and the Furious, and it was obvious there had been a selection of lessons learned from there, not least the correct balance between the sincerity of the approach and the silliness of the stunts and setpieces. The same idea of building a team around the leading man, who before had been a typical action flick lone wolf, was well to the fore, most prominently in the person of Donnie Yen, yet again choosing his projects carefully for the maximum global exposure and doing a better job than the original choice for his role, Jet Li. To emphasise the international nature of the production there was also Bollywood celebrity Deepika Padukone, Scottish Game of Thrones stalwart Rory McCann, Thai martial arts legend Tony Jaa (bleached blond to distinguish him from Yen), Aussie icon of futuristic cool Ruby Rose, and more, Toni Collette marshalling them all with a sour expression. Yes, it was borderline moronic, but it was nice to see it was perfectly content with that. Music by Robert Lydecker and Brian Tyler.