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Review | G.I. Joe: Retaliation

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With its built-in legion of fans and larger-than-life characters and storylines, the G.I. Joe property would seem impossible to get wrong, but despite a good box-office performance, 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra managed to strike the wrong notes.

Thankfully, director Jon M. Chu’s sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation learns from its predecessor’s mistakes, ditching the far-fetched science-fiction elements and getting down to the serious business of having a good time with the badass ninjas, real American heroes and treacherous Cobra villains.

Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street) reenlists in the Paramount Pictures franchise as Duke, accompanied again by the two characters that are downright impossible to get wrong: ninja warriors Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee). They’re joined by wrestling superstar turned actor Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock and the legendary Bruce Willis as the original Joe, General Joe Colton. Villainous Cobra agent Zartan (Pirates of the Caribbean‘s Jonathan Pryce) also returns to wreak global havoc disguised as the U.S. president.

Retaliation taps into the nostalgia for its brand, providing fans that collected the Hasbro toys growing up with an opportunity to thrill to seeing real-life Cobra Hiss Tanks and Fang boats in action. That’s not to say audiences unfamiliar with the many iterations of G.I. Joe will be left scratching their heads, as the film offers a tactical mission brief that highlights the characters and their specialties, bringing everyone more or less up to speed.

gi joe-johnson2There’s a mischievous, laughing abandon to the script by Zombieland writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese that serves up a heaping portion of tasty American cheese with a generous side of explosions. Tongue planted firmly in cheek, G.I. Joe’s ninjas and soldiers fight together for truth, justice and four-quadrant appeal.

The considerable sum Paramount ended up spending to convert the film to 3D was money well spent, as Chu’s use of the format is restrained and unobtrusive. When it is used, it enhances the campy, over-the-top action, particularly in the frenetic ninja fight sequence, which employs zip lines, swords and shurikens in the Himalayas.

Johnson’s playful charisma and mega-watt smile are pitch-perfect, as is his comic timing. When Roadblock’s mysterious ninja ally Snake Eyes manages to get the drop on him, Johnson demonstrates why he’s so good at injecting new life into existing franchises with his impeccable delivery of two words: “Damn Ninjas.”

Willis could be brought up on charges for petty theft, as he steals nearly every scene he’s in. Walt Goggins (Justified) makes an-all-too brief, but hilarious, appearance as a high-security prison warden, and Pryce, as the diabolical American president, is having too much fun bragging that he’d just “hung out with Bono.”

Fun gizmos and weapons abound, whether it’s Roadblock’s high-tech gloves that melt wire, or the exploding bugs and motorcycle of the brutish Firefly (Punisher‘s Ray Stevenson), the gadgets channel all of the gonzo delight of the G.I. Joe brand. Is it ridiculous that Lady Jaye (Friday Night Light‘s Adrianne Palicki) has a DNA-sequencing transmitter cleverly disguised as a lipstick? Yes. Is it awesome and should Hasbro create a toy version for girls ages 6 and up? Yes, please.

The treat — the giddy fun of this movie — is that it knows and revels in what it is and has no illusions about what it is not. To put it in simple musical terms: Retaliation isn’t Radiohead, it’s delicious bubble-gum pop and should be enjoyed that way – in a crowded theater with the sound cranked all the way up.

Yo, Joe!

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is playing nationwide.


  • helpIpaidtoseeGIJOE

    Awful, awful, awful, film.

  • Masked Man Issue 1

    Agree, agree, agree. What a waste of money and time.

  • Imraith Nimphais

    I enjoyed it thoroughly for wot it was…delicious. bubble-gum “pop”…light fun and entertainment.

  • Null

    I can’t imagine how anyone who liked GI Joe could not love this movie. It is almost nonstop fan service.

  • Jimmy

    Maybe you could have put the money to better use – like paying a doctor to remove the stick from both of your arses.

  • Symbol

    The Fang is a helicopter, which is in the movie. Water Moccasin was the turbine boat that appeared. There were a lot of G.I. Joe vehicles in the movie, including an A.W.E. Striker and quite possibly a Wolverine. Fun movie, but they still need to make Zartan look like Zartan. And have the Dreadnoks.

  • Masked Man Issue 1

    Wow, passionate about this movie much? Nah, I just don’t think it was remotely better than the original, and that most of the budget went to the awesome ninjas-hanging-from-the-mountains scene. So no budget was left for good writing, or actors, or anything that resembles a decent movie. But we can agree to disagree.

  • David Pease

    It never ceases to amaze me that they can take a proven winner and turn it into garbage. With all the cartoons, comics and action figures these two shitty movies is all they could muster? WTF?!? Completely sad. A real G.I. Joe movie could had given “The Avengers” a run for it’s money, yet all we get is this bullshit.

  • David Pease

    I grew up with it and had literally all the figures up to and including the serpentor era line. Even had the USS Flagg. The movies sucked ass. Anyone who read the comics, grew up watching the cartoons and had the figures could see that these movies were total shit.