G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

Posted in Reviews by - August 26, 2023
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

A big tonal shift for the second G.I. Joe movie, which starts as a comedic bromance between Duke (Tatum) and one of his new team members, Roadblock (The Rock). They attempt to out-alpha each other in macho displays of target practice, until Duke is ended in an ambush in Pakistan, orchestrated by the shape-shifting Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) who disguises himself as the president. With Tatum graciously bowing out of the franchise, his replacement is certainly an upgrade in the testosterone levels, with The Rock stepping in to lead the Joes on a merry rampage to restore their credibility, reinstate the real president, and destroy the evil Cobra commander who is behind a plot to take over the world. Bruce Willis even appears to help the team, playing a retired general. These films can’t decide whether to play it straight and earnest or be self-aware, and this sequel – more than the first, which was not only joyless but also an absolute bore – lands somewhere in the middle. Ultimately, the story has all the coherence of an eight-year-old making it up as they play along with their action figures – which is probably why we get things like miniature bees with cameras on them that explode, a motorbike that can dissemble and then also explode, bullets with cameras on them, face-swapping, Parkour, gun fu, and The Rock driving a tank. The most accomplished and stylish section of the film relates to Snake Eyes, the Joes’ silent masked sword expert, and Storm Shadow, his arch-nemesis. We learn of their training in Tokyo – thanks to narration by RZA playing their blind sensei – and the circumstances surrounding the killing of their master, ‘Hard Master’. When the two first duel at a Himalayan mountain retreat, the fight spills out onto the cliff-face, with ninja swiping at each other as they dangle precariously in easily the film’s best action sequence. Because its a 12A certificate, we never get to relish in the free-flowing fight choreography during the martial arts sequences, which are ruined by quick editing and close-ups, despite the best efforts of the likes of Ray Park and a clearly excellent stunt team. It’s disappointing, but these scenes are still very evocative, and form a nice counterpoint to the more gung-ho heroics going on elsewhere. Replacing the former lead actor with two new action stars is certainly a canny if ruthless business decision, but perhaps directing some of that finance into a decent script might have been a better idea.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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