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G.I. Joe: Retaliation Reviews

There’s a certain satisfaction that comes from watching a movie with zero pretentions -- an unapologetic slice of sugary pop cinema that embraces the absurdities of its chosen genre in a shameless bid to entertain. G.I. Joe: Retaliation may not be a “smart” action film (it may not even be a “good” one), but in terms of movies based on nearly 30-year-old cartoon series created to sell toys and directed by the guy who made the Justin Bieber documentary, it’s surprisingly watchable. Of course, if you’re going to start applying concepts like logic, plausibility, and classical filmmaking techniques to this explody distraction, you’ll probably end up laughing your way out of the theater before the main “plot” is even revealed, but if what you wandered into the multiplex looking for is a bit of big-gun bravado basted in sweaty machismo, you just might find yourself heading back to the concession stand for a refill on that extra-large popcorn. The story picks up shortly after the events of the ridiculous G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The Nanomite threat has been neutralized, and the U.S. government has imprisoned Cobra Commander and Destro in an inescapable subterranean prison. When the leader of Pakistan is assassinated, the U.S. president (Jonathan Pryce) calls on the Joes to secure Pakistan’s nuclear warheads before they fall into enemy hands. In the wake of successfully completing their mission, however, the Joes are decimated in a devastating surprise attack. When the smoke clears, Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), and Flint (D.J. Cotrona) are the sole survivors. They’re convinced that something is amiss in the White House, and as Lady Jaye theorizes that an imposter is pretending to be the commander in chief, bad guys Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun) and Firefly (Ray Stevenson) team up to break Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) out of prison. Later, as Storm Shadow retreats into the mountains to recover from burns incurred in the extraction, Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Jinx (Elodie Young) manage to capture the elusive white ninja, in the process discovering a shocking secret about his past and learning that Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), posing as the president, has called an international summit to discuss nuclear disarmament in order to bring the leaders of the world to their knees before the diabolical Cobra Commander. Now, as Cobra holds the entire globe hostage with a revolutionary new weapon placed on satellites orbiting the planet, it’s up to the Joes and a trustworthy old friend to save the day. Clearly, G.I. Joe: Retaliation screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (who previously collaborated on Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland) took more than a few cues from the wildly popular G.I. Joe cartoon from the 1980s when they were crafting the script for this ante-upping sequel. An occasionally schizophrenic blend of prodigal-son kung-fu film and testosterone-fueled men-(and-women)-on-a-mission romp, G.I. Joe: Retaliation is the kind of large-scale action movie in which the entire world is the stage, the laws of physics don’t apply, and every implausible plot development is giddily pursued without a glimmer of irony. Opening with character introductions inspired by the “file cards” that came with the original action figures, it knows exactly what audiences expect of it and pulls out all the stops to deliver. Even so, Reese and Wernick struggle to keep the story flowing smoothly following an unexpected chemistry shift early on that robs the film of its initially playful vibe. It’s an awkward development that could have easily cast a shadow over the entire bloodless affair, had helmer Jon M. Chu not made up for it with an exhilarating mountaintop action sequence that successfully shocks the movie back to life. A director with a background in dance films, Chu brings a sense of fluidity to the action that helps to mask his relative inexperience in the genre while enhancing the fantasy aspects of the violence in a way that directly calls back to the cartoon series (despite the fact that, unlike that series, characters actually die in this film). Meanwhile, the entire cast go for broke, with Ray Stevenson and Jonathan Pryce in particular obviously having a blast, and fun cameos by Walton Goggins and RZA add some energy to the incidental scenes. With the widely panned G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, it paid to purchase your ticket with diminished expectations. In this sequel, fans of the franchise needn’t make such a concession: G.I. Joe: Retaliation is precisely what most would expect from a hyperviolent PG-13 action flick that’s banking on viewer nostalgia to make a buck, and if your inner 12-year-old can’t appreciate that, you may want to check and make sure he still has a pulse.