Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (2021)

Posted in Reviews by - August 29, 2021
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (2021)

The Snake Eyes elements formed some of the most interesting moments in the previous two films in this most commercial of franchises – existing only to shift more Hasbro toys – so a standalone story dedicated to the Joe’s sword-wielding, silent ninja seems, on paper, to be quite an intriguing prospect. This has a huge budget (circa $100m) and great people working on it – including hot property in the fight world, like the actor Andrew Koji, fresh from the Warrior TV series, The Raid‘s Iko Uwais, and Donnie Yen‘s long-time fight partner, Kenji Tanigaki. The film should have finally provided a large enough canvas to showcase Kenji’s genre-defining martial arts sequences for a much larger, mainstream audience, but the resulting action is a hatchet job, with overzealous editing and disorienting ‘shaky-cam’ nullifying the impact and draining the film’s energy. Golding – an actor not known for action who has clearly dedicated hours of training to perform many of the fight scenes himself – must be thinking he needn’t have bothered. Iko Uwais’ ‘Hard Master’ and Peter Mensah’s blind sensei – picking up the reigns from RZA in the previous film – are both interesting characters, but underserved in minor roles, despite being martial artists in real-life. The strong production values, costumes and overall aesthetic elevates it to being probably the best in the G.I. Joe film series so far – but, let’s face it, that’s not a particularly high bar. Its the best because its the only one that feels most unlike a G.I. Joe film. Golding not only gives Snake Eyes his voice but also his rage, playing him as an embittered orphan desperate to avenge the death of his father. His nihilistic quest sees him become a cage fighter before joining a Yakuza clan where he befriends Tommy (Koji), traveling to Tokyo to undergo ninja training at his Arashikage clan family retreat. It feels like the film is stranded somewhere between wanting to make a tough, Takashi Miike-style Yakuza film – albeit one that is hamstrung by a 12A certificate – and an old-fashioned, more serious chambara movie. The contradicting themes never quite jell – and that’s before the producers realise they’re supposed to be making a G.I. Joe film, so incongruously throw in more cartoon nonsense into the mix, like Úrsula Corberó’s misplaced Baroness – a Cobra operative looking to steal an all-powerful jewel from the Arashikage clan – and Samara Weaving’s gung-ho Scarlett. And the less said about the giant mind-reading anacondas the better. Without much more than his singleminded quest for revenge, Golding looks lost in the lead role, leaving Koji to bring his acting A-game to a film which really doesn’t deserve it. It’s not terrible, but it is a missed opportunity.

AKA: G.I. Joe: Snake EyesSnake Eyes.

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.

1 Comment

  • Paul Baumeister

    Mirrored my thoughts on the movie, almost to the letter… I’m never a fan of shaky cam fight scenes, as I’d much rather be able to sit back and enjoy (or not) the choreography. I don’t feel like I’m “in the action”, I just feel like I’d like them to put the camera down and quit screwing around.