Review: G.I. Joe – Retaliation / Cert: 12A / Director: Jon M. Chu / Screenplay: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick / Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, D.J. Cotrona, Channing Tatum, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Stevenson, Ray Park / Release Date: Out Now
It’s all kicking off in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the long awaited, much delayed sequel to 2009’s enjoyable-despite-itself The Rise of Cobra. Following a screening of footage from Retaliation last summer, Starburst’s hopes were high that this second entry in what’s clearly intended to be a long-running action movie franchise might have a slicker script, a cleverer storyline and a bit more decent characterisation than the slam-bam ‘let’s blow up Paris for the Hell of it’ original. But it was not to be. Retaliation is pretty much a movie full of bald, muscular men running around grunting and firing guns while the token female in the cast gets the chance to strip down to her underwear once or twice; oh, and London gets it this time but that’s okay because it’s not in America.
The plot? Well, there is one, after a fashion. The hard of remembering are reintroduced to the G.I. Joe squad in a sequence which is virtually ‘top trumps’ on the big screen and we’re reminded that the nefarious Cobra organisation has infiltrated the White House and replaced the President with an evil double (played by Jonathan Pryce, whose tongue is virtually protruding through his cheek throughout the entire movie – the scene where he plays Angry Birds on his mobile phone as the world teeters on the edge of nuclear Armageddon is nearly enough to justify the film’s existence). The GI Joe squad is quickly wiped out on the false Pres’s orders and it’s up to new Joe on the block Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson to organise those who have survived into a crack force to thwart Cobra’s devilish (and rather self-defeating) scheme to plunge the world into nuclear chaos. His plan involves chasing off to the Himalayas (and the one action set-piece which genuinely thrills) and recruiting the original GI Joe; welcome aboard Mr Bruce Willis, who looks not so much as if he’s phoning it in but rather texting it. Before long Dwayne (who thankfully resists any urge to flex his pecs) and Bruce are rushing about shooting down similarly bald security guards and blowing up pretty much everything in sight in their haste to get to the end credits and sign up for the inevitable sequel.
To its credit, GI Joe: Retaliation isn’t as fist-clenchingly dumb as last year’s Battleship (sorry to bring that one up again) but neither is it as gloriously silly as the guilty pleasure which as The Rise of Cobra. The script rarely rises above the monosyllabic, the spectacle just becomes a rush of explosions and bangs and flashes but, oddly, the 3D conversion which caused the ninth month delay in the film’s release does actually work wonders in at least holding the attention when it might otherwise wander towards the theatre exit sign. Ultimately it’s a waste of actors who really deserve better because they’ve got genuine presence; Dwayne can actually act a bit, Bruce is usually good for a few moody glowers and one-liners and Britain’s Ray Stevenson, scorching in series seven of Dexter, just gets lost in a rush of admittedly well choreographed but exhausting-to-watch fight sequences. Astonishingly this empty vessel looks set to rake in even more than its predecessor at the box office and toy manufacturers Hasbro, at least, will have cause to celebrate the news that a third G.I. Joe has already been greenlit. We can hardly wait.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10