G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra

Director    Stephen Sommers
Starring    Channing Tatum, Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller, Christopher Ecclestone, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rachel Nichols, Marlon Wayans
Release    7 AUG (US) 7 AUG (UK)    Certificate 12A
2 stars


26th July 2009

So here we have the next in line for the Hasbro toy-to-movie treatment, following on from the Transformers films and then probably exhausting all other brands until we get a live-action trilogy of My Little Pony Vs Hungry Hungry Hippos. Like the Transformers movies, G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra is pitched as a fun, action-packed, epic blockbuster - unfortunately, it plays less like the excellent first Transformers, and more like its dodgy sequel.

In a bid to further expand his action movie credentials, Channing Tatum plays Duke, a celebrated soldier who's mission to transport nuclear warheads goes awry when an old flame, Ana aka The Baroness (Miller), attacks his squadron with hi-tech weaponry and attempts to steal them. In steps a mysterious military unit of elite fighters to save the day and soon we see Duke and his buddy, Ripcord (Marlon Wayans), joining the G.I. Joe team to clash with the Baroness and her equally mysterious enemy force.

It doesn't take long to see the main problem with the film. We see a typical scene establishing Duke's good guy persona; then there's the usual scene setting up the brothers-in-arms camaraderie with Ripcord; then we see the expected "Something's not quite right here" moment; and, as a missile strikes, so too does the notion that we've seen all of this before... loads of times. In fact, the dialogue and action sequences are so bog-standard that they're not much more inspired than those we improvised ourselves at the age of five as we played with the same action figures.

[gallery]Things go from bad to worse as we are introduced to the rest of the roster. We have the usually-excellent Christopher Eccleston, hamming it up with bad Bond villainry; Dennis Quaid's leader of the team, Hawkeye, filled with typical all-American pride for his troops; even the fan's favourite character, mute ninja Snake Eyes, has had creepy lips added to his otherwise blank visage.

Of all the jarring character features, however, none do more damage to the film than Heavy Duty's outrageous cockney accent. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost's Mr Eko) deflates every scene with the kind of "Aww bloody 'ell" dialect not heard since Don Cheadle in the last Ocean's movie - a remarkable feat considering that Akinnuoye-Agbaje was born and raised in Islington.

Unfortunately, the blame doesn't just rest with the script and cast. Director Stephen Sommers is guilty of loading the storyline with ostentatious flashbacks, providing back-story overkill for the key characters. He also has a nasty habit of placing the camera right in the middle of what should be super-cool ninja fight scenes, so instead of letting the trained martial artist actors do all the work, the close-ups and cut-aways ruin any spectacle of actually witnessing any decent kung fu whoopass.

There are, however, some positive points to be taken away. A car chase through Paris leading to the destruction of the Eiffel Tower is genuinely thrilling, even if the contrivance of special 'accelerator suits' make our heroes look, rather appropriately, a bit cartoonish running through the streets, their limbs flailing in true 'CGI Joe' style.

The other godsend in an otherwise deeply-flawed movie is Joseph Gordon-Levitt's sinister Doctor. Usually saving his acting talent for lo-fi indie flicks, his casting here is a breath of fresh air as he plays the ghastly comic-book baddy with more conviction than the rest the cast combined. Providing at least one genuinely frightening moment as he reveals his monster-like face beneath his Vader-esque breathing apparatus, he is perhaps the only reason to have faith in a decent sequel being made (that, and the hope that the writers will run out of action clich's by then and have to come up with some original dialogue).

The movie's failing is understandable: with G.I. Joe being the ultimate American action hero, you'd expect the ultimate American action movie - but what we get is the average denominator of every action flick that has ever been made. Most of the movie is crammed with the kind of conceits only reserved for parody and it leaves you wondering if you're just missing the irony, but the fact of the matter is, it plays like a serious Team America: World Police - there's even a training montage. It's fun, silly and you'll be laughing at most of it, you just wish that someone had let the film's cast and crew in on the joke.

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