BACK in 2009, we experienced the first wave of a relentless fighting force known as GI Joe. You were Awol that summer? Not to worry, because GI Joe Retaliation isn’t so much a sequel as a reboot.
GI Joe: Retaliation (12A)
Director: John M Chu
Running time: 110 minutes
* * *
Gone is Christopher Eccleston as the Scottish Destro who programmed his voice-guided jet to respond only to Gaelic (apparently an ancient language that includes “eject” in its vocabulary). In Retaliation, Destro looks less like a man, and more like a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, so no need to bring back the Doctor Who guy – or his disfigured evil pal The Doctor (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
This still leaves us with a platoon of GI Joes, a bunch so butch that they suck on live bullets to stop their teeth chattering, and have access to technology that is excellent at exploding or imploding. Unfortunately, their arch enemies have even dinkier weaponry, including mechanical fireflies that detonate in a manner that is impossible to sleep through, and results in a ruthless clear-out of characters.
Leading the new generation is Roadblock, played by Dwayne Johnson, who is well-chosen since he is built like something that could cause three-hour tailbacks on the M8. Early on, the film carefully establishes a nice joshing bromantic relationship between Roadblock and his leader Duke, which should set off warning bells for all of us who recognise that not everyone makes it back from a crucial mission. Also, Duke is played by Channing Tatum, who has become a much bigger and more expensive star since 2009. I don’t know how else to spell this out, but if you are a Tatum fan, you can probably nip out to the loo after the first half hour of Retaliation. If you are 15, however, you should stay and have a grand old time. John M Chu directed Justin Bieber’s concert movie and some of the Step Up films, and he knows how to keep things moving and what buttons to press if you love blowing stuff up on a limitless budget, and have a keen interest in unattainable women. The only female in the squad is Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and although the film pays lip service to ideas of strong femininity, it also hangs about a little too long whenever she’s getting changed, and when she glams up, the men around her react like Elmer Fudd when Bugs Bunny dresses up as a girl.
On the vet side of GI Joe, there’s Jonathan Pryce as the President of the United States, and also his evil doppelganger Zarthan. “I don’t know why they call it waterboarding,” smirks BadPres during some mild scenes of torture. “I’m never bored.” And speaking of smirk, Bruce Willis also parachutes in to play “the original GI Joe”, now in semi-retirement with enough guns hidden around his house to bring down a small country. Maybe he could spare a bullet for A Good Day To Die Hard. «