“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is wall-to-wall explosions — from nuclear all the way down to little fireflies that detonate.
There's also martial-arts fighting, swordfighting, submachine-gun fighting, bazooka fighting, tank fighting, fighting while hanging from ziplines and rappelling lines and airplanes and, in between just in case you start to miss the carnage, excessive macho posturing.
Even the token female member of the elite special-ops force (Adrianne Palicki) is guilty of macho posturing, when she's not conveniently disguised in revealing outfits. I take that back, even then sometimes.
The plot? Often incomprehensible, but the standard save-the-world scenario to stop egomaniacs out to subjugate us all by firing nuclear weapons. Complete with the standard countdown to detonation.
The characters? Not quite as deep as the dents in their six-pack abs.
The script? It ranges from wincingly bad to howlingly awful. Imagine being stuck delivering a line like this: “Soon the world will cower in the face of Zartan.”
Bwahahaha. Where's a good moustache when you really need one for twirling?
But, hey, what do you want from a sequel based on a Hasbro toy? More of the escapist action that the first movie offered, that's what. And “Retaliation” delivers.
Movie fans who live for the fight sequences and don't care about story or character should have a blast — no pun intended — watching this.
Others will have to rely on sex appeal (there's plenty, both genders), unintended laughs triggered by ultra-serious hulks, and the occasional intentional humorous exchange. Dwayne Johnson and Channing Tatum serve and volley a bit early on, and Bruce Willis cracks a one-liner that made me laugh out loud after he is asked, “Are you all right?”
The movie opens in the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, as the G.I. Joe team grabs a defector and hustles him across to the free world. It really has nothing to do with the rest of the movie. Just a warmup.
The main plot has the evil terror group Cobra infiltrating the White House by replacing the president with a look-alike and holding the real one hostage to extract information. Jonathan Pryce plays both.
The “president” frames the G.I. Joe force in a plot to seize nuclear weapons, then targets the entire unit for extinction.
But some grunts die harder than others. I would like to offer an early suggestion for a Razzie nomination: D.J. Cotrona (“Detroit 1-8-7”), as the most wooden of the G.I. Joes who go undercover to fight back.
Ray Stevenson and Walton Goggins get the most screen time as bad guys. Byung-hun Lee and Elodie Yung lead the martial-arts masters.
I still haven't sorted out the technology involved in keeping captured Cobra leaders alive in some remote prison, bottled up in water-filled tubes for years on end. Or why that's a good idea rather than a giant waste of money.
And I'm surprised at how often a movie overflowing with such high-tech flights of fancy relies on swords or punches to settle things. I kept waiting for Indiana Jones to whip out a pistol and just shoot the sword experts.
One thing “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” does well: It makes make you fully appreciate how much better even the weaker James Bond movies do this sort of thing. If Mike Myers hadn't already brought us Austin Powers, G.I. Joe would be ripe for wicked parody.
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CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story, actor Walton Goggins was misidentified.