Film review: GI JOE – RETALIATION, from Built For Speed

GI Joe Retaliation is an utterly preposterous action movie that continues the wonderful artistic trend of turning toys and video games into feature length films; nothing quite says quality cinema like a film who’s opening credit include the word “Hasbro”.

The plot here is really just a Bond (or perhaps an Austin Powers) knock-off as a maniacal villain hilariously named Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) kidnaps the US President (Jonathon Pryce) and holds the world to ransom with a super-weapon that can annihilate cities.  His dubious motive seems to be a quest for absolute slavish obedience from the every nation on earth. Note to Zartan, the US government beat you to it.  The only obstacle to his nefarious scheme is the elite Special Forces unit known as the GI Joes who are led by grinning muscleman Roadblock aka Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.  When Zartan’s fiendish Cobra assassins ambush the Joes, The Rock and the obligatory pretty boy Flint (D.J. Cortrona) and smokin’ hot babe Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) are the only survivors and must team up with former nemesis, the sullen ninja Storm Shadow, to battle Zartan.

With its outrageous machine gun porn and old white guy President, GI Joe: Retaliation, like the similarly ludicrous Battleship is really just a Republican Party wet dream masquerading as a movie.  Admittedly, it delivers its risible “might is right”, “God Bless America” manifesto with such a big wink that it almost becomes guilty pleasure.  Almost.  Fortunately, the sheer force of the film’s stupidity stops us from being completely sucked in and drinking that cool aid.

Putting aside the film’s contemptible politics for a moment, it does occasionally work as a balls-to-the-wall action film.  Some of the big showpiece effects sequences and battle scenes are genuinely exciting and impressively epic in scope.  The same can’t be said for the close quarter fight sequences where the camera flails about as if the stuntmen were actually punching the cinematographer.  The jerkiness may have been deliberate as some of the fighting, when clearly glimpsed, looked more like the German slapping dance than a martial arts battle.

This might sound like damning with faint praise but The Rock is ideal for this sort of film. His basketball biceps, goofy grin and easy charm fit the testosterone fuelled silliness of the whole exercise and he seems to be having a riot of a time as he gleefully machine guns the Christ out of people.  Unfortunately, Bruce Willis who plays the Joes’ mentor isn’t much more lively or charismatic here than he was in the lamentable A Good Day to Die Hard.  Performances generally don’t rise above the quality we would normally see in a Transformers movie but for sheer haminess no one beats rapper RZA who plays a wise old martial arts master like he’s in a Saturday Night Live pisstake of the TV show Kung Fu.

Older, more artistically minded cinema-goers who value subtlety, psychological depth and emotional complexity will see this film as an abomination but a 14 year old fuelled up on mass destruction video games will probably think it’s the greatest thing on earth.

Nick’s rating: Two stars.

Classification: M

Director(s): Jon M. Chu

Release date: 28th March 2013

Running time:  110 mins.


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