Movie review – Between The Rock and a hard place

2013-04-07 10:00

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From toy store to big screen, G.I. Joe: Retaliation’s confusing plot is not child’s play to follow, but you’ll be too braindead by the end to care, writes Gayle Edmunds

Brain freeze. For 100 minutes. That’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

It’s been five years since the first G.I. Joe movie, The Rise of Cobra, so I was hard-pressed to remember who was who in the toy store and eventually I gave up and let the action figures wash over me in increasingly bewildering military-esque manoeuvres.

These films are based on toys, and the comic book series that accompanied those toys back in 1982, when they were relaunched for the umpteenth time.

The moveable action figures, which were inducted into America’s toy hall of fame in 2003, had made their toy store debut in 1964.

Yet this is hardly a children’s film. It’s too violent for that by far.

With its toy-store roots it’s little surprise, then, that three of the most wooden actors on the market star in it: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bruce Willis and Channing Tatum.

Though Tatum fans, be warned, his character Duke doesn’t make it to the 15-minute mark.

This film is about Roadblock (Johnson) saving the world and getting vengeance for his best mate Duke’s murder.

Johnson’s slightly too-wide grin, showing off a mouthful of blindingly perfect pearly whites is, frankly, alarming; but, thankfully, he has little to smile about until, inevitably, he saves the world – by which time the audience is so deep into brain freeze the offending grin goes unnoticed.

The plot goes something like this: Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) is freed from a high-security jail by his minions, one of whom is now the president of the US.

To follow how this happened, you have to recall from the first film how Arnold Vosloo’s character, Zartan, using nanobots – or something – transformed himself into Jonathan Pryce (the president).

So far, so good.

The fake president is, meanwhile, sending the G.I. Joe division on a suicide mission to get them out of the picture for when he makes his play to take over the world with his evil boss.

Then the action segues to the other side of the world, where the dialogue could have been copied from one of those dubbed Chinese martial arts classics the SABC used to buy (or perhaps still does) in bulk.

This mini plotline does, though, lead to by far the best scene in this tangled mess, and is arguably the only reason to see it at all: the aerial combat scene Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Jinx (Elodie Yung) execute to kidnap Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun) from what is styled as a Tibetan monastery in the Himalayas.

This is where director Jon M Chu’s roots show, but in a good way.

His only other noteworthy directing credits are Step Up 2 and 3.

While those films are about as big on plot as this one, the dancing was spectacular and Chu choreographs the martial arts scenes with similar flair and grace. It’s a shame about the rest.

I would have also expected something much better, plot wise, from the pens of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who wrote the brilliant Zombieland.

Instead, the pair churn out a confusing mishmash of faux military tactics with a seriously underdeveloped love story chucked in, as well as making the only woman on the team (Adrianne Palicki) motivated by her daddy issues.

But their biggest crime is not injecting enough humour into what is a really silly film, which would have made audiences more receptive to overlooking the stonking great rips in the story’s continuum.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is dumb and it is catching.

Expect to go the same way for 100 minutes.

» Follow me on Twitter @GayleMahala

Movie credits 

Film: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (UIP)

Director: Jon M Chu

Featuring: Dwayne Johnson, DJ Cotrona, Adrianne Palicki, Elodie Yung, Jonathan Pryce, Bruce Willis and Channing Tatum

Rating: 5/10

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