January’s never a good month for new movies. Hello A Dog’s Purpose, hello The Bye Bye Man, hello Underworld: Blood Wars — except, wait, Underword: Blood Wars has the Tech Lycan and is thus an undisputed masterpiece. But for the most part: January? After the holiday movie season, before the summer movie season? The January movie landscape can best be described as "a pile of unrelenting garbage."
But one thing can pull us out of that pile of garbage. Two things, actually. Donnie Yen's left arm. And Donnie Yen's right arm. In xXx: Return of Xander Cage.
Yes, I know it's February now. The movie came out in January, and I've just now regained my ability to process my many feelings on it. Roll with me here.
Let me put this right out there: xXx: Return of Xander Cage is not a great movie. The plot is boilerplate and nonsensical and the action scenes are shot in that closeup-heavy/fast-edit way where it's obvious that stunt doubles are doing most of the work. (The Donnie Yen scenes are the exception. You don't hire Donnie Yen if you don't want wide shots of him punching people really, really fast.)
The whole thing reads like a low-rent Fast and Furious where everyone's auditioning to be in the ninth movie ... with the exception of Vin Diesel (obviously), Tony Jaa (who was in Furious Seven) and the magnificent Donnie Yen, who is above such petty concerns. If Donnie Yen is cast in a Fast and Furious movie, he ain't auditioning; Vin Diesel’s showing up on bended knee with a bouquet of roses and Dwayne Johnson dressed like a strippergram to beg him to grace the franchise with his presence.
For all that, Return of Xander Cage is a fun, stupid movie where Vin Diesel skis through the jungle, hot people flirt with each other shamelessly and one of the main guy's superpower is he's "fun to be around."
It's January, OK? We get what we get.
But the undisputed champ of this movie's everything is the fact that … look. You might not know this if you've only seen him in Rogue One, where he was perpetually besleeved, but Donnie Yen has arms.
I don't mean "those appendages that extend from his torso" — most people have those. I mean Donnie Yen. Has. Arrrrrmmmmsss.
The very first major action setpiece has a moment where Donnie Yen has to whip off his leather jacket so he can use it to slide across a table. I'm telling you right here and now that my life flashed before my eyes. Not five minutes later Tony Jaa kicks a dude off a motorcycle and takes his place while the motorcycle is still moving, but my lizard brain was still being punched in its face (in a metaphorical, sexy fashion) by Donnie Yen's arms.
For most of the rest of them movie, he's wearing an assortment of stylish jackets and/or a bad Hawaiian shirt, but there is a decent chunk where he's wearing a long-sleeved shirt with the sleeves pushed up, which is well-documented as Kryptonite to anyone of the male-attracted persuasion.
Welcome to the gun show. Vin who?
Donnie Yen's arms could fight crime without even being connected to the rest of his body. Donnie Yen's arms could stop the sinking of the Titanic. Donnie Yen's arms cured my crippling depression. Donnie Yen's arms lift us up where we belong.