Director: Jon M. Chu
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, D.J. Cotrona, Channing Tatum, Adrianne Palicki, Jonathan Pryce
Running Time: 110 mins
Release: 27 March
3D: Skip it
Originally scheduled for active duty last summer, G.I. Joe: Retaliation was hoisted back to 2013 shortly before release, supposedly to allow for a 3D makeover, although many suspected the project was going back in the oven following poor early reactions. The delay has ensured the film’s surprisingly potent ‘Seven Nation Army’ fueled trailer has seen prolonged airplay. Can Retaliation overcome its turbulent development and live up to the promise of its thrilling trailer?
Following on from the events in Rise of Cobra, Cobra Commander (yes, that really was Joseph Gordon Levitt) is under lock and key, and the Joes, led by Duke (Tatum) and right hand man Road Block (Johnson), are back on top. But their shelf life is about to be cut short by Cobra covert operative Zartan, who, imitating the US President, is plotting the destruction of the Joes and the escape of his imprisoned Commander. With the team almost entirely wiped out in a surprise assault, and framed for the theft of nuclear weapons, Road Block must lead the remaining crew in a seemingly hopeless battle against Cobra, now the leaders of the ‘free’ world.
The plot of Retaliation unfolds like the cartoon addled machinations of a 10 year old boy, a narrative crafted with the subtlety of tossing a handful of action figures into a shoe-box submarine, but with none of the imagination. It’s a simple story told with expert clumsiness, with so many redundant scenes and characters that it should come with a choking hazard. Cobra Commander exists in this film as more of a ticked box than a character. Though at least he looks cool, D.J. Cotrona is one of the top billing actors in this film and does absolutely nothing. Likewise Bruce Willis makes for a great marketing pitch but serves as little more than a grizzled gun hoarder in the film.
Despite its legions of superfluous characters, it is a relief to see at least some of the cast are having fun. Dwayne Johnson, likable as always, grounds the film somewhat with an air of confidence that at least gives the illusion that it all makes sense. He especially shines in his limited screen time with Tatum with the pair sharing some fun and earnest banter. Jonathan Pryce is delightfully cocky as Zartan/The President, a more potent villain than the mostly absent Commander. Ray Stevenson is a quality new addition as antagonistic arsonist Firefly, and definitely ‘gets it’.
For its sins, Retaliation actually delivers a couple of great set pieces. The mountainside ninja assault that features prominently in the trailers lives up to its promise, delivering the kind of exhilarating silliness that the rest of the film must surely envy. Another stand out is an underground prison escape featuring a scene stealing but sadly short lived cameo by Walter Goggins as the cocksure warden. Compared to these relatively tightly paced episodes, the film’s finale plays like a toy advert; plenty of futuristic thingamajigs, but rushed and directionless.
Retaliation has its moments, and probably has more personality than it really has any right to. But it’s just too unfocused to sustain itself for two hours. Enough substance for a pumping trailer; as a feature film it all falls to pieces.