G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Special Forces team the G.I. Joes are tasked with keeping America safe. Leader Duke (Channing Tatum: Side Effects) and his best bud Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson: Snitch) recover nukes, blow up baddies and look darn good doing it. They are the go-to team whenever anyone threatens truth, justice and the American way.
While the Joes are out running missions, terrorist group Cobra devises a brilliant plan for world domination. Cobra agent Zartan infiltrates the government and uses nanobots to impersonate the president (Jonathan Pryce: Dark Blood). As the evil leader of the free world, Zartan first orders the Joes killed. Then he threatens world leaders with a new super weapon that Cobra built and launched with nobody watching.
The few surviving Joes regroup to clear their names and avenge their comrades. This plan involves martial arts, giant men firing bigger guns and girls in skimpy outfits.
Sound silly? It is.
Can the Joes win back their freedom? Will Cobra’s evil plan ever make sense? Can an astrophysicist explain how a bomb dropped in space with no propulsion system would fall in a straight line toward a target?
Based on a beloved Saturday morning cartoon show and toy franchise, G.I. Joe: Retaliation isn’t high art. Director Jon M. Chu (Justin Bieber: Never Say Never) captures the spirit of the show with cartoonish performances and action. But inane dialog and awful plot suck most of the fun out of the movie.
Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick cram plots from at least three terrible action movies into one overlong, nonsensical script. Much of the movie cuts awkwardly between two characters’ quests. Roadblock wants to clear the names of his fallen brethren. The Joes’ resident ninja Snake Eyes seeks to punish the rival who killed his ninja master. The result is a mishmash of genres and styles reminiscent of a sugar-addled child’s channel surfing. I imagine the formal script for the film looked like this: something, something EXPLOSIONS catchphrase something, something ninjas, CGI fight, gunfire.
To maintain the audience-friendly PG-13 rating, action sequences are compromised. Sword fights and gun battles are relatively bloodless. Instead cars crash, buildings explode and bodies fly intact to the floor.
In spite of its incoherent script and ridiculous dialog, G.I. Joe: Retaliation isn’t a total loss. Winning performances, especially from Johnson, keep the movie from becoming unbearable. With his natural charm and intimidating physicality, Johnson has become the go-to guy to save flailing action franchises (just ask the Fast and Furious producers). Johnson may not redeem Joe’s wretched writing, but he is always a delight on screen.
Established character actors like Walton Goggins, Pryce and Ray Stevenson also deserve a salute. They pop up in a few scenes and seem to enjoy chewing scenery as they deliver hackneyed lines. Even action vet Bruce Willis delivers a credibly conscious performance as a former Joe general. With the exception of a woefully miscast RZA, who plays a ninja master suffering from logorrhea, the entire ensemble puts in a heroic effort.