G.I. Joe: Retaliation – 2013
Director John M. Chu
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, D.J. Cotrona, Byung-hun Lee, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Stevenson, Channing Tatum, Luke Bracey, Walton Goggins, Joseph Mazzello, Robert Baker, James Carville, RZA
Screenplay Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Probably on video. Definitely. One had every reason to look forward to the second installment of G.I. Joe, and almost as many reasons to be disappointed. Like the first one, Retaliation has the ridiculous Pryce in the role of the President. What’s worse, he also plays a guy who is imitating the President. Thankfully, we can be assured that one of them (two if we’re lucky) will expire by film’s end. By now, everyone knows that Tatum bites it relatively early in the film. This is not before he shares a funny scene with the Rock playing video war games. As if that were enough, we get to hear the duo refer to themselves as friends about 50 times verbally. That’s a lot of reassurance. When I saw my friend the other day, I greeted him by calling him an ass. I did this very subtly, however.
Park and Lee return as Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. Snake Eyes has less to do now, mainly shrugging his shoulders and fighting. He’s kind of like Bumblebee, without the Paramount film sound bites. Lee has what amounts to the most character development, if that is what you can call it. His clear charisma exceeds everyone else in the film, including The Rock and Willis, and it’s a positive maneuver for an otherwise cardboard plot.
Maybe it’s the constant reference to names like Roadblock, Snake Eyes, Jynx, Destro, Zartan, Firefly and my two particular favorites, Grunt and Clutch that keeps me from sitting back and enjoying the ride. Maybe its the absolute refusal to obey the laws of physics and common sense. Maybe it’s seeing yet another large group of highly trained military élite making camp right out in the open desert after the big raid. Nope. I know what it is…the Rock walking through the open desert for seeming days with a bald head and not getting sunburned. That walk gets them to Washington D.C., however, where they finally get a car to travel in.
Willis is here, I think, to drum up box office. He has perhaps 4 scenes, most of which are shown in the trailer. Call me shallow, but that mole between Palecki’s eyes would make her easy enough to find that it should not need a computer program. Ray Stevenson continues his streak of not being that good in anything since the excellent HBO series, Rome. RZA brings his special brand of non-acting to play. The only time it feels like he is truly blind is when it comes to guessing if he read the script.
Chu’s direction is adequate, but there is no sense of build up whatsoever. The lack of tension and the planning sessions that lead to meandering attacks give the viewer a feeling that it is just a series of disconnected scenes. It’s another in a long line of films designed not so much to make money in the U.S. as much as the rest of the world. And it works, as this film made 2X as much outside of America. Apparently plot is not as important as the international language of cliché.
(** out of *****)