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GI Joe: Retaliation - Review

GI Joe: Retaliation

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

IF EVER a franchise needed rebooting then it was GI Joe. Fortunately, director Jon M Chu has come in and done just that with a little help from Dwayne Johnson (aka Mr ‘franchise Viagra’).

By no means a classic, GI Joe: Retaliation is a fun romp… a Friday night popcorn flick that has a knowing sense of its own absurdity.

There are nods to Stephen Sommers’ original but whereas that movie opted for OTT special effects and uneven humour, this one sticks closer to the fabled GI Joe mythology and tries to make the set pieces as realistic as possible.

The plot, if sometimes needlessly convoluted, is basically a revenge story.

After successfully extracting nuclear warheads from an unstable Pakistan the GI Joes suddenly find themselves ambushed and virtually wiped out.

The trio of survivors (Dwayne Johnson, DJ Cotrona and Adrianne Palicki) head back to the US to hunt down and kill the Cobra members they suspect are responsible while figuring out why the usually dependable US President (Jonathan Pryce) isn’t acting himself.

Once there, they enlist the help of an original Joe (Bruce Willis) while Snake Eyes (Ray Park) seeks out an unlikely ally in helping to thwart the subsequent threat to world peace.

Retaliation hits the ground running and barely pauses for breath, throwing innumerable set pieces at the screen to the undoubted delight of teenage boys everywhere. But then it never pretends to be anything more than what it is.

There are flaws, of course. The third act is so overblown it’s positively ridiculous, plot holes abound throughout and attempts to address sexism using Palicki’s kick-ass Lady Jaye are quickly negated by an over-indulgence in cleavage and cute bum shots.

As with the original, some of the more ‘high-concept’ set pieces rely too heavily on CGI and look awful as a result. And there are some genuinely terrible moments of macho posturing, gung-ho flag-waving and inappropriate weapons fetishism (as well as an overly generous running time).

But Chu deserves credit for knowing where the film’s strengths lie and for embracing them whole-heartedly. Johnson, as he did with the Fast & Furious franchise, amps up the testosterone but also brings his trademark charisma and gets to share some nice chemistry with the outgoing Channing Tatum and the incoming Willis.

Ray Stevenson and Jonathan Pryce have fun with their villainy, as only British baddies know how, Lee Byung-hun and Ray Park dazzle with their physicality and there’s a fun, if far too short, extended cameo from the always reliable Walton Goggins.

Chu also musters at least a couple of notable set pieces, including a decent climactic tussle between Johnson and Stevenson on a beach.

Given how bad the first GI Joe really was, Retaliation‘s marked improvement has to go down as a pleasant surprise. Chu has the measure of the material and the fan-base in question and duly rewards them with a solid piece of entertainment.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 115mins
UK Release Date: March 27, 2013