G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the delayed sequel to a gloriously over-the-top Hasbro adaptation that was released nearly four years ago, has the unfortunate luck of feeling like a direct-to-DVD entry despite the following:

a.) The presence of Bruce Willis: The action star appears in four scenes as the original Joe, a character who could’ve easily walked off the set of RED 2 or last month’s Die Hard stinker. Willis is carelessly employed as a weathered veteran who gives our heroes access to his collection of firearms that have been stored and hidden in his seemingly peaceful suburban home. The scene in which he reveals his stash in his Martha Stewart-esque kitchen is as laughable as it is logistically impossible.

b.) A spectacularly staged ninja showdown that takes place entirely on the side of a mountain: The aerial stunts here are quite breathtaking; it’s almost like watching an amped-up version of a Cirque du Soleil performance accompanied by a dubstep-driven soundtrack. This is easily the best sequence in the film.

c.) The appearance of the Man of the Hour, Channing Tatum: Although he shows some promising chemistry with co-star Dwayne Johnson, something tells me that audiences will be upset with how his story develops.


Retaliation feels as if it doesn’t really require you to remember the events that took place in 2009’s The Rise of Cobra because virtually an entirely new cast has been brought in to lock, load, and lay waste to the bad guys, some of whom have swapped allegiances for this brain-numbing installment.

Speaking of new cast members, the appearance of RZA (?!?!) as the Blind Master prompted several laughs throughout the theater I was in — and no jokes were being cracked whatsoever. HottiesĀ D.J. Cotrona and Adrianne Palicki fill in the roles of Flint and Jaye, respectively, and contribute as much as they can without turning their scenes into something straight out of a CW drama.

As for the plot? The President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce) isn’t who he says he is (imposter alert!) and good ol’ Cobra Commander is behind a plot to frame the Joes for war crimes, turn the entire world against each other so that he and his minions can get ahold of each nation’s nukes, and ultimately unleash his new toy, a satellite weapon capable of leveling the entire city of London within seconds. In an all-too-brief scene, we see the destruction of the UK from a bird’s-eye-view; it’s a throwaway shot that disturbingly treats the deaths of millions as a fleeting plot point.

Director John M. Chu, who’s responsible for the last three Step Up movies (yes, you read that correctly), knows a thing or two about choreographed fight sequences, but that’s about it. There’s little in this soulless sequel that can redeem it as a whole. Whereas the Stephen Sommers-directed original reveled in its popcorny badassery, this one plods along with less coherency and even less charisma.

Only time will tell if the moviegoing public, after watching this, will retaliate on its own and demand to be treated with a little more respect.

1.5/5 stars