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G.I Joe : Retaliation‘ Review : Cobra got no Venom

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Caffeinated Clint
@http://www.twitter.com/clintmoviehole

Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole.

A vanilla ice-cream is still a vanilla ice-cream even after its been dipped in chocolate and doused in sprinkles.

2009’s ”G.I Joe : The Rise of Cobra”, inspired by those little leaf-coloured plastic figurines most of us played with out in the school sandpit, was as Vanilla as a soggy marshmallow . Still, the ensemble actioner – featuring the likes of Channing Tatum, Dennis Quaid, Rachel Nichols as Marlon Wayans as a band of highly-skilled secret soldiers – made enough money to warrant a sequel and – so it seems – afford some marquee names (with Tatum essentially the only main carry-over) for the next time ’round.

Paramount’s fancied the sequel up with bigger stars, enough trailer-ready quips to make unfussy macho men smile (“In the immortal words of Jay-Z: “Whatever deity may guide my life, Dear Lord don’t let me die tonight!”), a late-in-the-day 3D overlay (said to be the reason the film was delayed for six months. *cough* bullshit! *cough*) and, some will be glad to hear, 100% less Marlon Wayans (Not that his involvement in this one could’ve made it much worse). Thing is, and like the above said ice-cream cone, audiences will have licked off the offering’s sprinkles within about ten minutes (something happens around that time that might even spur walkouts), exposing the same old-same old offering underneath.

There’s no prettying up a witchery grub.

This time around, the government – ruled by the villainous Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), wearing the mask of the current President (Jonathan Pryce) – frames the G.I Joe troupe for a string of crimes they didn’t commit and orders them wiped out. With ‘Roadblock’ (Dwayne Johnson) leading the charge, the surviving soldiers set out to – with the help of a few new recruits, including the ‘original Joe’, played by Bruce Willis – take down Zartan and his devious army of followers.

Jon M.Chu, director of ”Step Up” and ”Step Up 2”, treats the ”G.I Joe” film like he does his dance movies – he layers it with cheesy, wannabe-hipster dialogue, fills the frame with the prettiest things he can find, and has his talent dance around, participating in ridiculous couples jigs for an hour-and-half.

The ”G.I Joe” follow-up will, like the first, likely find its audience from the members of the now-disbanded ”Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” fan-club, or anyone under the age of 10. Sure, there’s lots of kicking, punching, gunfire, rubbery costumes and off-road racing, but the story built around the fight sequences is thinner than a bit of tracing paper. There’s not an ounce of detail or anything interesting about these cardboard cut-out characters, there’s no suspense or drive to the central plot, and when your main drawcard – the action sequences – aren’t even exciting, you know you’re in trouble. And no, the 3D doesn’t much help either; like any 2D film slapped with a 3D coating in the editing room, the differences are barely noticeable.

It’s a wonder Dwayne Johnson felt the need to sign up for another franchise, particularly with his success in the unremitting ”Fast & Furious” films, but more so, why he felt the need, what with so many superior films now gracing his CV, to sign for such a substandard tentpole. Johnson’s surely passed on weaker material than this. He must have owed Paramount one. The former wrestler, who has been in the acting game for about a decade now and done fairly well out of it, comes off okay, thanks to his muscles, charm and ability to look cool yielding big guns, but there’s nothing but a video-game character for him to work with – a snazzy avatar without a soul. His fans will feel let down here – just as Channing Tatum’s many [female] fans will, but for a whole other reason we won’t go into.

It’s always sad to see good actors raped on screen; not faring much better than Johnson or Tatum, tired ol’ Bruce Willis is wasted in a thinly-written turn as the original ‘Joe’ – the part essentially just a tired amalgamation of other characters he’s played in recent years (We get it Bruce, you’re “the old, veteran superhero”. Enough already!), while legendary thesp Jonathan Pryce looks as humiliated as he does bored playing the dual roles of villain and POTUS.

One also has to wonder what attracted promising young actors like Walton Goggins (TVs ”Justified”), playing a prison warden, and Joseph Mazello (TVs ”The Pacific”), seen briefly as a sharpshooter named ‘Mouse’, to do such fleeting, forgettable turns in the muck.

Of everyone, rising screen starlet Adrianne Palicki (best known for her role as the resident get-about girl on TVs ”Friday Night Lights”) comes off best, utilizing her good looks and athletic ability to give the most memorable turn of the female good guys. Best case scenario : Her turn is noticed and she’s cast in a better actioner or superhero flick in the near future.

You know that last half-hour that occupies each of Michael Bay’s monotonous ”Transformers” movies? Yeah, the boring third act where it’s just ‘boom!’, ‘crash!’, ‘boom!’,’ bang!’, ‘blam’, ‘rat-a-tat-tat’.. and you’re struggling to say interested! That’s ”G.I Joe : Retaliation” as a whole!

Another blow for Joe.

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