To really get at my feelings for G.I. JOE: RETALIATION, the follow-up to the very dopey G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA from four years ago, one only really needs to gander over at the quick notes I jotted down in the margin of my notepad while watching the flick unfold - Filler, filler, filler, exposition, noise, noise, exposition, unexplained characters, noise, Adrienne Palicki’s ass, exposition, noise, noise, exposition, Adrienne Palicki’s breasts, noise, noise, exposition, Adrienne Palicki’s ass again, exposition, exposition, noise, noise, noise, noise, noise. And that’s pretty much the entire movie. While I thought the first film was incredibly dumb, G.I. JOE: RETALIATION makes it look like the work of geniuses through a story that’s all over the place, characters that don’t mean anything, villains that have no real plan or motivation and the appearance of Bruce Willis who is solely in the movie, because why not get Bruce Willis if you have the chance? The only way G.I. JOE: RETALIATION seems to work is if you went in expecting a comedy, with the laughs generated by how bad the film truly is... but even then, it’s all done unintentionally, so how much credit can it actually receive for that?
RETALIATION picks up where the first film left off, with Zartan impersonated the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce), effectively giving Cobra control of the White House, right down to the Secret Service detail being replaced by members of the criminal organization. Cobra’s plans are... well, we won’t really learn what they are until the third act, more specifically right before the film’s climactic battle sequence, so, in the meantime, it’ll be a lot of nothing as to what is taking place on-screen. It’s a lot of bait-and-switch tactics by director Jon M. Chu, who is in way over his head here following his experiences with the STEP UP movies. He shows you a lot of sequences involved the Joes and Cobra where it may appear that things are happening to build to something meaningful, but really it’s a bunch of loosely-connected scenes that don’t offer up anything substantial more than the opportunity to sell toys to adolescents.
Zartan has figured out that the best way to achieve whatever Cobra wants is to eliminate the Joes, and so he green-lights an assault on them following a mission in Pakistan, leaving the unit wiped out with the exception of three survivors - Roadblock (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki, who Chu is never afraid to point his camera at for extended periods of time). Believing they can trust no one, they somehow manage to head back to the States undetected where they take up shop in Roadblock’s old hood, finding sanctuary in the confines of a broken-down rec center. They’re able to quickly put together a complex computer set-up and database to track the actions of the President recently in order to figure out what is going on, and then locate the one man they think they can rely on, the original G.I. Joe, General Joseph Colton, who is nothing more than Willis in what amounts to a cameo role of a few minutes. Together, they’re rebuilding the Joes team in order to take down the President and everyone with him, which now includes an escaped Cobra Commander (not played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt this time... smart man).
In the process, we’ll get some thrown together conflict and backstory between Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun) and Snake Eyes (Ray Park) over the fate of the Hard Master that for some reason involves RZA as the martial arts guru Blind Master. However, much of that story thread didn’t even register as I spent about 15 minutes of RETALIATION trying to figure out who the hell the woman in yellow was and where exactly she came from (She turns out to be Jinx, played by Elodie Yung).
RETALIATION couldn’t even make ninjas look cool, putting them in situations so ridiculous, like a zipline chase scene through the mountains, in addition to a fight on the side of said mountain range that should have been easy awesome as it’s freaking ninjas fighting on the side of a freaking mountain. It all comes across as badly staged, incredibly contrived and lacking any semblance of intelligence whatsoever though that what should have been a cool set piece is absolutely wasted.
The one thing Chu manages to do well is oogle Palicki in various states of cleavage and undress to get the hormones of the 10 year olds in the audience raging. I’ll admit that Palicki is nice to look at, and, due to the affinity for her appearance, she is certainly given more to do than any of the other Joes... but with the advent of the internet, I can look at gorgeous women all day long if I so choose, so, while Palicki offers a certain appeal to the film, it’s not as if it’s something I couldn’t see elsewhere for longer periods of time.
There just isn’t anything for any of this cast to do in order to fill out a whole movie. I always give any action movie starring The Rock a fighting chance, and yes, he’s able to deliver a couple of smackdowns here and there, but there’s no real basis for his character at all, other than we’re told he has to assume command, because the leader of the group is no longer with us. But there’s nothing else to go on, except he has a pair of daughters and... yep, that’s about it. Cotrona gets lost in the shuffle, as he barely even registers on your radar with doing any substantial. In fact, if he wasn’t a part of a very small group of surviving Joes, I doubt you’d even remember he was in the movie. And, as for the villains, they seem to be trotted out with no rhyme or reason as to how they’re going to be used or even why they’re going to be used. What is the purpose of Firefly (Ray Stevenson) in RETALIATION other than to get some Firefly action figures on the shelves?
I can’t even call G.I. JOE: RETALIATION a trainwreck, because that’d be an insult to trainwrecks. This movie is an absolute jumble of ideas thrown together, with 3-D slapped on it and passed off as a film of some sorts. You’d be better served taking 90 minutes out of your day to pick up some G.I. Joes, stage your own story with them on your floor or your couch, record it and upload it to YouTube for others to see... because whatever you come up with, no matter how far-fetched it may be, has got to be better than this nonsensical bit of atrociousness.
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