Movie review: 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation'

The Fresno BeeMarch 28, 2013 

It was originally reported that "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" was bumped from its planned June 2012 release so that it could be changed to 3-D. If that was the reason, it wasn't worth the wait.

Then, it was reported the film was delayed so more scenes of Duke (Channing Tatum) and Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) could be shot. Again, the footage of the two is fun, but it's not worth the long delay.

The best reason it may have been pushed into 2013 was to get it as far away from the lackluster 2009 "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra." Except for the name, any association between the two films is merely coincidence.

Instead of being little more than a extended commercial to sell action figures as the first film was, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have tightened the story. They reduced the number of Joes, created an outlandish -- but clear-cut -- evil plot for the group to foil and capitalized on the dry humor of Johnson and the scene-stealing ways of Adrianne Palicki (Lady Jaye).

The result is a campy film -- but not so campy to detract from the white-knuckle action.

The biggest change is the reduction of the massive team of Joes into a handful of soldiers, which makes it easier to keep track of the players and gives each a chance to shine. Even a small role for Bruce Willis works because he doesn't have so many other Joes taking up the screen time.

It's up to the Joes to stop the evil organization of Cobra after they have replaced the President (Jonathan Pryce) with an exact double. The plot of Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) is to use a meeting of leaders to take over the world. The plot is outlandish, but it does keep in step with the kind of missions the Joes have battled since they went from action figures to TV and film stars.

The plot is not as important as the action that follows. Director Jon M. Chu shows great skill, whether the fights are on city streets or on the sides of mountains. There's a sword fight done while the combatants run along the walls of a giant cliff that is as exciting as it is beautifully choreographed.

Johnson -- who seemed so wrong in "Snitch" -- is in his growling element as the reluctant leader of the Joes. This is the kind of movie Johnson should make.

With a role in this film, "Red Dawn," and a very brief stint as TV's new Wonder Woman, Palicki's becoming the queen of combat. It doesn't hurt that she looks just as confident dressed in army fatigues as a red evening gown.

It really doesn't matter why there was a long delay in this movie hitting screens. All that matters now is that the mistakes that crippled the first "G.I. Joe" movie have been corrected. The result is a blast.


MOVIE REVIEW

"G.I. Joe: Retaliation," rated PG-13 for action scenes, language. Stars Dwayne Johnson, Adrianne Palicki, Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis, Jonathan Pryce. Directed by Jon M. Chu. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes. Grade: B-

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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