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Soundtrack review: xXx – The return of Xander Cage (Brian Tyler & Robert Lydecker – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: xXx – The return of Xander Cage (Brian Tyler & Robert Lydecker – 2016)

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“xXx: Return of Xander Cage” (released as xXx: Reactivated in some countries) is a 2017 American action film directed by D. J. Caruso and written by F. Scott Frazier. It stars Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Toni Collette and Samuel L. Jackson. It is the third installment in the xXx franchise and a sequel to both xXx (2002) and xXx: State of the Union (2005). Xander Cage is left for dead after an incident, though he secretly returns to action for a new, tough assignment with his handler Augustus Gibbons. The score is written by Brian Tyler and Robert Lydecker.

Now Brian Tyler is my favorite action film music composer and his themes are like anthems for me to use when running or when I need to get pumped up with adrenaline. Still there’s been one area of his career which I haven’t been able to connect with even if the movies are among the most highly energetic and suffocating exciting on the big screen: the “Fast and furious” series. Something doesn’t click for me, neither in the film nor as a standalone listen. I am making this introduction because I saw “xXx” in the cinema and my impression of the score in the context of the movie was just as underwhelming as in the case of the other Vin Diesel powered franchise. I have a slim hope that I might discover something interesting in the standalone listen.

The opening title theme is Tyler-esque but sounds as if he’s just having fun or playing his regular music toned down for the kids. It’s true that the movie is beyond silly and targets teenagers mostly so I guess the composers wanted to adapt their music to this audience and to the feel of the movie. The score also has that sound that sometimes feels like electric sparks flying and I’m not a big fan. The music feels rushed and written on autopilot and safe for some epic moments does hurt the standalone listening experience. it’s not a good sign for me when a few cues into a score I can only think about how this album is 70 minutes long and wonder why and if I can sit through it. It’s not that I don’t remotely enjoy the music, it’s just that 70  minute is too much for what it has to offer especially since the cues seems to start repeating themselves from a point on. There are moments when I get excited (like “Windfall”) and hope for something better but the score gets back to forgettable soon afterwards.

Clearly “xXx : The return of Xander Cage” wasn’t for me. I got the same feeling of frustration I usually get when I listen to John Powell’s “Bourne” scores; it’s a score that I just don’t get from one of my favorite composers especially when my mind was set for exciting action.  What did you think of it?

Cue rating: 70 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 2 / 70

Album excellence: 3%

Highlights:

Windfall

Tags:
Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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