“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” features Dwayne Johnson as “Roadblock,” Adrianne Palicki as “Lady Jaye” and D.J. Cotrona as “Flint,” three members of an elite military unit. When the president of Pakistan is assassinated, the ensuing riots and destabilized government causes the US to fear the ultimate fate of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. After consulting with advisers, the President of the United States (Johnathan Pryce) decides to send the G.I. Joes to secure Pakistan’s nuclear warheads.
The team manages to capture the warheads and evacuate to a position in the desert to wait for transport home. Before their transport arrives, the G.I. Joes come under attack leaving only Roadblock, Jaye and Flint to find out why they were attacked and avenge their fallen brothers in arms.
The only other operating G.I. Joe, “Snake Eyes” (Ray Park), is on a mission alone. He watches as Cobra Commander is rescued from a suspension chamber inside a super secure facility deep beneath Germany. From there he returns to find that the Joes have been accused of operating independently in stealing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Now with Cobra Commander free, it falls on Snake Eyes to capture his former friend Storm Shadow in the hopes of finding out what Cobra’s plan is in time to stop it.
After making their way back home, Roadblock uses some old contacts to provide a hiding place for the Joes to operate from while they try to unravel the conspiracy that turned them from heroes to hunted criminals.
For “Retaliation” to work for fans of the G.l. Joe franchise, there needs to be a fair amount of combat, some advanced technology and the notion that specially trained individuals from humble origins can save the world. While all of the pieces are there, the glue that holds those pieces together is a bit weak. The subplot that revolves around Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) and Snake Eyes is clunky and poorly executed. In spite of some good action sequences, the almost punishing dialog should have been left on the cutting room floor.
Luckily, fans of a 3D action film don’t require a lot of good dialogue. What they do need is some explosions and some well executed fight sequences. While including modern combat, sci fi tech and ninja inspired swordplay in the same movie might leave some action purists crying foul, considering the G. I. Joe franchise went so far as to include characters as disparate as William “Refrigerator” Perry and pro wrestler “Sgt. Slaughter”, a certain amount of divergence from the probable should be expected. If anything, the action seemed too ordinary and not terribly interesting.
One obvious weak point was the rivalry between Roadblock and the Cobra agent “Firefly” (Ray Stevenson). I kept thinking back to the arch-villain Arius from the 1985 film “Commando” in that the character seemed inadequate to challenge a much more impressive looking hero. While his acting skills can be debated, Dwayne Johnson takes up a certain amount of screen real estate. While similar in height, Stevenson’s Firefly doesn’t have the same screen impact and fails to establish Roadblock as the underdog in their encounters. That failure left me somewhat less than engaged in the climactic fight between the two.
“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” was a generally entertaining but forgettable film. It left a lot of stories untold, and could have used either more plot or more action. It went by fairly quickly, even with a few speed bumps and could have used beefing up. Given a week, I probably won’t even remember I saw it.