A few years after the events of Rise of Cobra, Cobra Commander has been stored away in secret prison and the Joes have come under the leadership of Duke (Channing Tatum) and his right hand man Roadblock (Dwayne The Rock Johnson). But after completing a mission overseas, the Joes camp is attacked and almost all of our heroes are killed. The president of the United States, who literally does not have a name (Jonathan Pryce), tells the world that the Joes were responsible for a number of treacherous acts and calls for the global eradication of nuclear weapons. But the president isn’t who he says he is and the task of stopping him falls to Roadblock, Lady Jaye (Adrienne Palicki), DJ Cortona (Flint), and Snake Eyes (Ray Park). I’ve decided to keep things fresh around here by coming at GI Joe: Retaliation from a pros and cons standpoint. Now, I’m about to take this movie out back and beat it with a shovel until I have exacted my revenge for the 110 minutes it took from me, but in the interest of fairness, let’s start with the positives.
PROS 1. The Rock is pretty solid. He does his dead level best to raise the material he was given to work with and he does a more than adequate job of dressing this proverbial pig up with a pretty bow. Some of the best parts of the movie involve the back and forth between Johnson and Tatum.
2. I find Adrienne Palicki extremely attractive and perhaps because of this (or my blind loyalty to anything related to Friday Night Lights) I didn’t think her performance was horrible.
3. There’s a five minute fight scene between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) that is ninjatastic and highly enjoyable even if it is almost immediately ruined by the following sequence.
4. Any time Walton Goggins shows up, your project jumps up a notch.
5. GI Joe Retaliation is not quite as bad as Rise of Cobra, due entirely to the aforementioned presence of The Rock.
CONS NOTE: This list is basically the scratching of the surface of the issues I had with this movie but I’ve lost track of some of them due to the lobotomy I gave myself upon walking out of the theater. NOTE TWO: There might be a tiny spoiler in here somewhere. I think it’s pretty obvious from the trailer but if you don’t want the suspense of such a terrific film ruined, then turn away now.
1. There are approximately 756 plot points within GI Joe Retaliation that make absolutely no sense. Now I am aware that it’s not like this film was made out to be Schindler’s List and I can look past some holes in the interest of enjoying an action movie but this goes far beyond the acceptable level of what a man can overlook. My favorite was when the Joes essentially allow London to get blown to bits in order to out Cobra Commander. Hey Britain, I know you’ve been our ally for years and all, but we’re betting you probably won’t miss London.
2. Director Jon M. Chu has NO IDEA how to shoot an action scene. Most of the sequences are too fast and blurry for the eye to keep up and half the time I literally couldn’t tell what was happening on screen. I don’t know what I expected from the man who directed not one but two Step Up movies.
3. Ray Stevenson’s accent is appalling.
4. While Cobra Commander is ostensibly the main villain, the focal point of the film is Pryce’s president and the character ranks up there with the worst villains in a blockbuster movie ever. I think he was supposed to be a sort of sly, cool bad guy but instead he just comes off as cheesy and cliché riddled. Some of this is the writing but let me be frank: Pryce does NOTHING to help the situation.
5. Speaking of the script, it’s bloody wretched. Not only is the plot a total mess, the dialogue is (as expected) cringe-worthy, and perhaps most importantly, it’s extremely dated. I know this film was pushed back by a year but it goes far beyond that. GI Joe Retaliation feels like it was written by an 8th grader who was sent to the future from 1999. So many little things jump off the screen as out of place because it’s all so antiquated.
6. The scuttlebutt around the Internet was that this movie was bumped from last year to allow for some reshoots that would play up Channing Tatum’s role. Well…not so much, as his character dies within the first 15 minutes. A year ago I never would have imagined I’d write something like this but if you’ve got Channing Tatum in your movie, you probably want to play his character up rather than kill him off.
7. Speaking of Duke, his death is so nondescript as to lead to immediate speculation that he’ll make a remarkable comeback for the inevitable third film. I’m calling my shot now!
8. Throughout the movie, the characters seem to have knowledge that they shouldn’t have. It’s almost as if the characters were given copies of the script before they were thrown into these trying situations.
9. There’s an inherent stupidity to much of what happens throughout this movie. I didn’t expect it to be overly cerebral but it’s like Chu and his cronies go out of their way to make sure the characters do and say idiotic things. The satellites Cobra uses to destroy the world doesn’t launch or shoot its missile but rather it simply “drops” the projectile from space and allows “gravity” to do the rest. Nope.
10. There’s just about nothing that any of these actors could have done to bring GI Joe Retaliation up from the dregs that the script and direction place it in, but it’s possible that no actor has ever given a worse performance in a big budget movie than what RZA has to offer us here. As the sensei for Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, he serves as a sort of narrator over a particularly worthless tangential storyline and the excruciating pain that his portrayal brought on is akin to one of the lesser levels of hell. STOP TRYING TO ACT!!!
All that to say, GI Joe Retaliation is the worst movie I have seen in this young year and it should be avoided at all costs. I mean that. If someone breaks into your house and demands that you either give him your life savings or watch this movie, you should hand over your valuables and consider yourself lucky.
GI Joe: Retaliation Director: Jon M. Chu Cast: The Rock, Adrienne Palicki, Jonathan Pryce Rated: PG-13 (cartoon violence, some mild language) Recommended For: Pre-teen boys and Guantanamo prisoners