xXx 3 Secretly Tied Up State Of The Union’s Ending Tease (With Donnie Yen)


xXx: Return of Xander Cage brought the xXx franchise back to life, and also paid off the ending of State of the Union by bringing in Donnie Yen.

2017’s xXx: Return of Xander Cage quietly paid off the ending tease of its 2005 predecessor xXx: State of the Union. The xXx series is something of a fluke among contemporary action movie franchises in the unlikely success story it’s become, not unlike Vin Diesel’s home in the Fast and Furious series. That very series, which experienced its own revival, also has more to do with the resurrection of xXx than might seem to be the case at first glance.

2002’s xXx was a decent-sized success, with Diesel coming off the previous year’s sleeper hit The Fast and the Furious. Despite this, Diesel would jump ship on the 2005 sequel, xXx: State of the Union, being replaced by Ice Cube as the new recruit into the xXx program, Darius Stone. The movie ended up bombing hard, leaving the xXx series on ice until it was revived in 2017 with Return of Xander Cage, with Diesel returning in the title role, but the film still made a stealthy pay-off to State of the Union‘s ending.

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State of the Union ends with Samuel L. Jackson’s Augustus Gibbons commenting that “I think we need to go even further off the grid next time“, in reference to bringing in the next recruit to the xXx program, with Gibbons adding “I’ve got the perfect candidate“. That candidate would be none other than Donnie Yen’s Xiang, who made his debut in Return of Xander Cage along with other xXx agents on his side. What makes this interesting is just how casual of a pay-off Xiang’s debut really was.

xXx Return of Xander Cage Vin Diesel Donnie Yen

Considering the failure of State of the Union, it’s likely a significant chunk of Return of Xander Cage‘s audience went into the movie without having seen the second film in the series. Moreover, after a gap of twelve years, a franchise that hadn’t exactly lit the world on fire wouldn’t seem likely to be terribly concerned with maintaining continuity beyond bringing back its title character. Nevertheless, Return of Xander Cage did anything but ignore its predecessor, not only making Xiang the third xXx recruit of Gibbons, but also bringing back his second, with Ice Cube returning near the end of the movie as Darius Stone.

In the intervening years between State of the Union and Return of Xander Cage, Vin Diesel made a return to the Fast and Furious franchise, with the series truly breaking out in 2011’s Fast Five and growing into a towering juggernaut, with the upcoming F9 on the way. At the same time, Donnie Yen had also grown into a household name not only through his mid-2000’s hits Sha Po Lang and Flash Point, but even more so with the Ip Man series, with Yen portraying the famed Wing Chun mentor of the legendary Bruce Lee. Diesel’s renewed recognition and Yen’s rising international stardom (further cemented after Rogue One: A Star Wars Story just a month earlier) made a third xXx a much more sure bet.

Though Return of Xander Cage saw a muted response stateside, its international numbers made it the biggest of the series, with Yen’s star power making it a huge hit in Asia, and leading to xXx 4 entering development. Whether that has any connective tissue with the first two movies in the series is an open question. Still, it’s a little impressive that with such a long gap between movies, xXx: Return of Xander Cage delivered an almost unnoticed payoff to the ending of its immediate predecessor.

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