“We don’t need no stinking taglines.”
Directed by Jon M. Chu
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Jonathan Price and Byung-hun Lee
Framed by their own commanders and almost wiped out, the surviving members of the G.I. Joe team must fight against the odds to clear their names and avenge their dead, before Cobra can realise their ultimate goal to – dare I say it? – rule the world.
Following from the end of The Rise of Cobra, Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) is impersonating the President (Price, because even an evil US President must be British) and frames the G.I. Joes (formerly referred to as ‘G.I. Joe’ in the singular and now a US sovereignty-violating special unit rather than an allegedly international command) as nuclear terrorists, enacting standard protocol in such situations by launching a massive military strike in the Indus Valley, killing Duke (Channing Tatum) and most of his team, and presumably offing the other characters from Rise of Cobra offscreen (apart from Snake-Eyes (Park), who is doing something completely different with the Arashekaga ninja clan, who appear to be intimately connected to the G.I. Joe recruitment programme.)
Storm Shadow (Lee) breaks Cobra Commander out of a dodgy underground prison in Germany, but is critically wounded and then captured by Park and his apprentice Jinx (Elodie Yung), leading to the fastest face-turn in movie history. Cobra Commander, Zartan and Firefly (Ray Stevenson) call a nuclear disarmament summit with the goal of bringing the world to its knees with a non-nuclear WMD. Meanwhile, the three surviving Joes – Roadblock (Johnson), Flint (DJ Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Palicki) – make their way back to the US intent on justice, or revenge; the difference is not high on the movie’s agenda.
What’s wrong with it?
G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a monumentally dumb movie, produced to soft reset a franchise that had only had the one entry and that immensely forgettable.
It opens with G.I. Joe as an American force retaining its apparent international remit, because America fuck yeah! Nevertheless, they want to keep Snake-Eyes, complete with Japanese ninja clan.
America also has a super-secret prison under Germany, allegedly so deep that it is in international territory, which is possibly the dumbest thing I have ever heard. The prison itself, run by a clinical sadist purely to keep two men in a state of waking nightmare, is pretty stupid, but the fact that they lock Storm Shadow in the same room as his swords is almost as ridiculous as the fact that there is no way for anyone in the vault to know that the topside security has been wiped out.
It makes about as much sense as Cobra’s special burn unit in the Himalayas, combining faith healing and nano-surgery, or no-one in the world security establishment batting an eyelid when the President launches a new special forces division of the Secret Service called ‘Cobra’.
Everyone just ignores that Lady Jaye is the highest ranking surviving Joe, and in fact the only serving officer in the group.
What’s right with it?
For a dumb action movie, there are some surprisingly good character moments, including Storm Shadow reaching to save a falling ninja, and Lady Jaye rolling her eyes in disgust when she dresses as a sexy jogger to lure the Secretary of Defence and it works.
How bad is it really?
Making a conscious effort to be more gritty than its predecessor, Retaliation tips just to the dull side, leaving the otherwise impressive set pieces feeling bloodless and uninspiring. It’s also hard to feel much other than disdain for the world around our ‘heroes’, given how easily and predictably they fall into Cobra’s hands, leaving only America’s best to save the human race.
Best bit (if such there is)?
Firefly slugs the captive president.
Firefly: That’s for the tax hike!
Zartan: Like you pay taxes.
Firefly: It ain’t always about me.
What’s up with…?
- The Arashekaga ninja clan? They appear to be Japanese, but run a Joe training programme. They also fetishise swords and senses, but none of them noticed that the Hard Master was murdered with the wrong sword. Mind you, once they get that piece of information, they deduce the rest of the story with a speed and accuracy that would leave Sherlock Holmes dizzy.
- Cobra’s faith healing/nanosurgery clinic in the Himalayas? I mean, I presume it’s Cobra-run, since otherwise Snake-Eyes and Jinx basically just bust into a hospital, kill most of the orderlies, knock out a doctor and precipitate an avalanche for shiggles.
- The leaders of the ‘nuclear 8’ all showing up to a nuclear disarmament talk with personal launch controllers for their entire nuclear arsenals?
Production values – It’s a highly professional job of work, with perfectly workmanlike explosions and the like. 5
Dialogue and performances – some occasional sparkle aside, the dialogue is leaden. The performances are all pretty professional, however. 12
Plot and execution – This is the definition of a dumb action movie, with some substantial emphasis on the dumb. 16
Randomness – The film implies the existence of a much larger fictional universe. Sadly, it is not a fictional universe that makes any kind of sense. 14
Waste of potential – Shackled to the original film, this was always going to have problems, but in seeking to escape The Rise of Cobra it actually manages to get dumber in some ways. 15