'G.I. Joe Retaliation' Review By Julian Roman

Jonathan Pryce (The President) and Byung-hun Lee (Storm Shadow) steal the film from the muscled stars without firing a bullet.
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Directing
  • Visuals
The greatest American Heroes are back and much different from the first film. G.I. Joe: Retaliation takes a swath to the characters from the original, then restarts with new leads and a plot as plastic as the action figures of my youth. Some parts had me scratching my head, but others were entertaining and very much in vein of the classic cartoon. The biggest surprise was the two strongest performances. Jonathan Pryce (The President) and Byung-hun Lee (Storm Shadow) steal the film from the muscled stars without firing a bullet. I found their scenes and storylines interesting. It provides a back thread that makes up for the frivolity of the overall plot, and the lack of real menace from Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey).

The film opens with the Joe's betrayed and on the run. Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), and Flint (D.J. Cotrona) go to the one man they know they can trust, the solider that gave the Joe's their nickname, retired General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis). They believe that the President (Pryce) has been copied by Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) and is now running the US government with diabolical intentions. Halfway around the world, Snake Eyes (Ray Parks) and Jinx (Elodie Yung), seek their former ninja brother, Storm Shadow (Lee). He was injured freeing Cobra Commander (Bracey) from his underground prison. As the President calls a world summit of nuclear armed countries, the Joe's uncover Cobra Commander's plan and break out the heavy machinery to stop him. They are joined by an unlikely ally, who seeks revenge for a life-altering betrayal.

If you like ninjas, you're going to like this movie. Ray Parks and Byung-hun Lee are lethal here. Their fight scenes are awesome. Parks is the king of the no-dialogue, butt-kicking character. His Snake Eyes isn't quite as bad-assed as Darth Maul, but the Storm Shadow versus Snake Eyes duels are thrilling. The fight choreography is far superior to any gun battle in the film. Martial arts fans will certainly get a kick, or more aptly a slice from the ninja subplot.

Dwayne Johnson is the lead character here as Roadblock, but he's not nearly good as Jonathan Pryce as the villainous President. We probably have five minutes of screen time with Arnold Vosloo as Zartan. Pryce is the chief antagonist in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. He's a tremendous character actor who's made dozens of films. He's smarmy, evil, and even a bit of a dirty old man. Then you have the dual performance as the real President, kidnapped and tortured by Cobra. His performance is the only one with range. The Joe's suffer from bad dialogue and somewhat poor chemistry. I never got a real buddy vibe between the three main Joe's, but then there's several stories that run concurrently. It may be that the Storm Shadow plot is just better.

My chief gripe is Cobra Commander and his lack of anything to do in this film. I wish the filmmakers had made his character more interesting. He doesn't have much screen time, and apart from a few demands, doesn't say anything. Cobra Commander in the comics and cartoon had an intriguing personality. He was a shrill egomaniac, cutthroat and a somewhat diva. Here he's like a puddle of goo, lifeless and bland. Pryce hams it up so much, I was literally waiting for Cobra Commander to jump in and start getting some gleeful badness in. It doesn't happen and that's a bummer.

I didn't despise the first film like everyone else seems to, so Hasbro and Paramount didn't have to make up too much ground for me in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Its got great fighting scenes that elevate the gunplay. The plot has interesting points that certainly don't hold up to scrutiny; but then so does every movie based off action figures and cartoons. G.I. Joe: Retaliation moves quickly with the requisite PG-13 action, so you shouldn't be bored. I'd guess the more hardcore fans of the cartoon and comics probably wanted a more lucid film. Action and martial arts fans will enjoy it more as a straight popcorn flick. Quick note of honesty, Storm Shadow was one of my favorite toys growing up. As long as he's cool, then I'm pretty much happy with G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Ninjas everywhere have no fear; Byung-hun Lee represents you well:)

Do you like this review?

Comments (17)

  1. Julian Roman

    @redcameraman, cheese factor definitely turned down here. I just want a better cobra commander if they do another film.

    2 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  2. T. King (Red Camera Man)

    @julianroman: I finally saw this movie earlier today, and in my opinion, it's equally on par with the 1st film for its entertainment value, but it's slightly less cheesy. I now rated them both a 3.5.

    2 years agoby @redcameramanFlag

  3. Titon

    @bawnian-dexeus Agreed the first film for me is a good saturday night movie. This one wasn't all that bad, but I just couldn't believe the plot, I was more interested in Storm Shadow's storyline than anything else and his fight scenes with Snake Eyes were great. Bruce Willis as always is good. I kinda felt bad for Duke (Tatum), I liked him. CC (Bracey) wanted to destroy everything basically, I just had to grin when he said "I want it all", I mean he wanted to live in a nuclear wasteland planet. Adrianne Palicki was better than Rachel Nichols from the first film and thank God there wasn't a Marlon Wayans. Overall is good, not that bad, but they could have done so much better with the dialogue.

    2 years agoby @TitonFlag

  4. Bawnian©-Dexeus

    Pass the time just for the hell of it

    2 years agoby @bawnian-dexeusFlag

  5. Bawnian©-Dexeus

    @julianroman I didn't mention it my review, but the first film is a good Sunday movie

    2 years agoby @bawnian-dexeusFlag

  6. Bawnian©-Dexeus

    @corey They just extended his stay in the first act, and took him out like originally planned

    2 years agoby @bawnian-dexeusFlag

  7. Julian Roman

    @redcameraman, I'm in the minority here but I thought the first film was okay. This one definitely cuts out the cheese factor, so it's a more serious take. The ninja subplot makes this film for me, but maybe not everyone likes ninjas lol

    2 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  8. Julian Roman

    @corey, yup, in the first five minutes lol. I like tatum, the dude has a lot of haters though.

    2 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  9. Corey W.

    @julianroman Hey man, out of curiosity does Tatum still *spoiler* die in this film? Or with the re-shoots did they make the change and keep his character alive? I can ask you too, @bawnian-dexeus

    2 years agoby @coreyFlag

  10. T. King (Red Camera Man)

    @bawnian-dexeus: Thanks.

    @julianroman: Oh, okay. I was just curious because he was one of the few cheesy aspects I've had with the first film (despite the whole film still being fun for entertainment value). What's your rating on the 1st film, by the way? Is it better or worse than the 2nd?

    2 years agoby @redcameramanFlag

  11. Julian Roman

    @redcameraman, how goes it dude? If you're worried about channing tatum then don't be, he's not really in this film. All that stuff about reshoots seems to be hogwash for the 3D conversion.

    2 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  12. Bawnian©-Dexeus

    @redcameraman By like, a few minutes

    2 years agoby @bawnian-dexeusFlag

  13. T. King (Red Camera Man)

    @julianroman: Does Channing Tatum get more screen time in this sequel? If so, then...(sigh). It's because of how this movie was ridiculously 3D converted and got pushed from its June 29th release date to its now March 28th release date; and from the looks of it, Tatum appears to be in it more. Just wondering.

    Also, despite its cheesiness, I enjoyed the first film (I still rated it a 4), but I'll decide which movie is better after I see the 2nd film. Another great review, man. :-)

    2 years agoby @redcameramanFlag

  14. Julian Roman

    @ejk1, dude, don't know if you ever saw this featurette:


    Definitely worth checking out, shows the storm shadow story and the ass kicking fight scenes between him and snake eyes

    2 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  15. ejk1

    @julianroman Thanks for the information.

    2 years agoby @ejk1Flag

  16. Julian Roman

    @ejk1, Dude, giving you and anyone else who reads this thread a spoiler alert, so stop reading if you want to go in cold...
    They kill all off the old Joe's in the first five minutes. And there's not a whiff or mention of the Baroness. Like I said, I didn't hate the original like everyone else. But I think you could watch and maybe even have a passing interest in this one. They should have just made the Storm Shadow plot the entire film lol. Lee and Parks are so awesome.

    2 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  17. ejk1

    Like I told Yentz, I cannot read a whole review of this film because of how much I hate the first. That being said, what I skimmed through was very well-written as always. I have just one question: was there any mention of Baroness? Did they even try to fix that mistake?

    2 years agoby @ejk1Flag