Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum, Ninjas. These are the proven commodities in modern action movies.
Retaliation, the long-awaited (aka the long-delayed) sequel to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, relies heavily on these proven commodities to ensure its success. Taking a cue from G.I. Joe: Renegades, a small group of Joes must work together to thwart the terrorist organization, Cobra. Led by the villainous Cobra Commander (and its undercover agent posing as the president), Cobra plans to overtake the world through tyranny and brute force. The Joes have been framed, are on the run, and have very limited resources.
This group, consisting of Roadblock (Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) work stateside to identify and gain access to the leaders of the Cobra organization. Meanwhile, across the globe, the mysterious Joe, Snake Eyes (Ray Park in a much-improved new set of armor) and his protégé, Jinx (Elodie Yung) seek out their sword brother, Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee), who must be brought to justice for the murder of their clan leader.
Throw in the appearance of the original Joe, General Joe Colton (Willis), and you’ve got a small, diverse, colorful group of soldiers set to take on a multi-billion dollar organization with more men, guns, tanks and weapons than any one person could count. Let the games begin.
Retaliation suffers from overexposure. The film was delayed a full nine months. Depending on the report, the cause was either additional 3D effects, or an expansion of Channing Tatum’s role as Duke, or both. Tatum and Johnson really do play off one another nicely in the film, but there is little of their interaction that hasn’t already been released. In fact, there’s little to the movie that hasn’t hit the internet in the form of trailers, featurettes, sneak peeks, or interview exclusives. The movie going experience (at least in 2D) is akin to seeing a comedian when you’ve already heard half his jokes in advance.
Some of the highlights work, even if viewers have seen some pieces in advance. The mountainside ninja zipline/swordfight/Wu Shu battle/shootout is a particular highlight. The melee brawl between Johnson and Ray Stevenson (as the nut job, Firefly) near the finale’ is appropriately dubbed “gun-fu.” As with all movies supported by, and built on, a massive toy line, there are plenty of tanks, guns, bombs, helicopters, and other fun military vehicles.
The screenplay, written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, gives just enough on each of the characters. The actors take over from there, with Willis and Johnson getting the best one-liners. The film isn’t as openly comedic as the 2009 prequel, which is a welcome relief. Jonathon Pryce steals each of his scenes as the imposter, Zartan, and the president he’s impersonating. He gets to play his own straight man in one scene.
Director Jon M. Chu paces the movie well and provides some great visuals. The action scenes combine quick-cut music video styling with slow-motion, and the combination works well. Johnson and Willis easily project the leadership of their characters. Palicki balances her bad-ass and vulnerable sides well. The intentional generational differences in point-of-view provide some additional humor.
There’s not much to say about this one that hasn’t already been said. Those expecting to see a fun, 90-minute popcorn action movie won’t be disappointed. The veterans among the cast provide a slight step up from the prequel, and the expanded ninja scenes are entertaining, even when one of the key protagonists is sworn to silence. Fans will be delighted to know that Retaliation’s opening weekend has already assured a sequel will be released.
Readers can find out even more about the movie at the film’s official site.