G.I. Joe: Retaliation
What It Is
“That’s what happens when you’re in trouble. You go home.” Just so, when Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) and a couple of his G.I. Joe colleagues — Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Cotrona) — are in trouble, he brings them to the neighborhood where he grew up. Here he meets up with a childhood friend, Stoop (DeRay Davis), who looks the younger soldiers up and down and deems them “Miley Cyrus and Ryan Seacrest.”
For a moment, the Joes are put off, called out on their whiteness and their youth. But soon they find the joke is all in good fun, that Stoop and Roadblock are great friends, and, most importantly, Stoop’s going to provide them with a vehicle and a place too (his old boxing gym), so they might figure out their trouble — a plot by Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) to blow up the world — and right it.
Stoop’s joke is unusual in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which is to say, the movie doesn’t spend much time making fun of its action heroes. Instead, it celebrates and elevates them, their guns, and their righteous anger, brought on by a plot that leaves most of their team members dead within the film’s first half hour. As they seek retaliation (“We’re going to find the man who did this to us and we’re going to kill him,” says Roadblock, as his friends’ eyes go misty and they all nod), they gain some new friends.
These include a former enemy, Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee), and a ninja girl, Jinx (Elodie Yung), both sent by the Blind Master (RZA, in a performance at once comic and weird), as well as a retired US general, Colton (Bruce Willis) and his band of old brothers. The makeshift team amasses some weapons, manages some very silly espionage, and saves the world, including the kidnapped US president (Jonathan Pryce), who’s been replaced by one of Cobra Commander’s minions, Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), in a super-fancy biotech mask that somehow fools every White House security agent and technology.
The scheme and the disguise are so goofy, it’s enough to make you worry about the security of the nation. Thank goodness we have the Joes.
Why It’s Fun
The Joes don’t spend much time developing relationships, so the fun lies primarily in the action — which does, sometimes, develop a relationship, as when Jaye and Colton mount an assault together and come to appreciate one another’s skills, with speedy close-ups of their faces sufficing for evidence of changing attitudes. Mostly, though, the action is focused on the destruction of buildings and vehicles, or, in the ninja battles, stuntmen dressed in masks so you can’t tell who’s who.
The 3D is fine, with unremarkable sword thrusts or kicks aimed at viewers.
Who’s Going To Love It
Kids who like the toys or the first G.I. Joe movie (2009’s Rise of Cobra) may be pleased to see the soldiers and the villains in the flesh. With only a few returning players — Pryce as the president, Tatum as Duke, Vosloo as Zartan and a couple of other villains — the movie is populated with new characters. Or, more accurately, characters with new names and played by new actors, but fulfilling the same roles as the old characters (again, shooting, fighting, and blowing things up).
Fans of high-octane action movies may get a kick out of the ninja stunts here. One in particular has the tormented Storm Shadow teamed up with Jinx repelling and leaping on cliff faces, chased by an impressive squad of black-masked ninjas: the backdrop is beautiful, the characters are interchangeable.
What To Be Aware Of
The movie is premised on shooting, fighting, and blowing things up, with occasional downtime when people talk about shooting, fighting and blowing things up.
This ongoing violence is committed with punches and kicks (martial arts), knives, swords, ninja stars, guns, missiles, tanks, and planes, and also several swarms of remote-controlled drone fireflies, designed to blow up on contact. Explosions are noisy, flying bodies and injuries are numerous, some people die. Still, much of this violence is rendered so broadly and quickly, from camera distances both very close and very far, that bloody effects are minimal.
Jaye appears in her underwear, watched by Flint in a mirror, so he can pretend not to be watching. She also appears in a running outfit, very short shorts and a bra-top: she bends over in order to distract a kidnap target — and viewers too.
Moreover, the girls here are generally disrespected by the boys, until they’re not. But then, even when Jaye and Jinx do reveal their skills, the movie frames them more as pretty props than full on characters. But then again, no one here rises much above the level of cardboard.
Two buddies joke about one liking the other’s “panties,” then pause to note this is probably not territory they want to explore.
The film features some language, including “shut up,” two “Welcome to hells,” “ass,” “damn ninjas,” and a moment near the start when Roadblock says “mother...” just as the scene cuts to another. In another scene, a character holds up two middle fingers as a taunt.
3 out of 10
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Director: Jon M. Chu
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, D.J. Cotrona, Byung-hun Lee, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, RZA, Ray Stevenson, Channing Tatum, Elodie Yung, Bruce Willis, Walton Goggins, Luke Bracey, Robert Baker, DeRay Davis, Joe Mazzello, Arnold Vosloo
US General Release: March 28, 2013
UK General Release: March 27, 2013