G.I. Joe: Retaliation

When it was revealed that the real reason G.I. Joe: Retaliation was delayed from its scheduled opening last summer was because audiences wanted more Channing Tatum, you would think the finished product would have, well… more Channing Tatum. (Retaliation was filmed before Tatum’s career exploded with The Vow and 21 Jump Street.)

Apparently, though, all the extra time gets you is a doubling of your screen time from two minutes to four.

Indeed, Tatum fans, Retaliation is decidedly not The Channing Show.

Picking up essentially where 2009’s The Rise of Cobra left off, it begins with the Joes (including Tatum as Duke) infiltrating a Pakistani base to nab a nuclear warhead from the bad guys. But then the U.S. President (Jonathan Pryce), who’s really Cobra operative Zartan in disguise, falsely accuses the Joes of killing the Pakistani president and orders them all eliminated “with extreme prejudice”.

So long, Mr. Tatum.

Only Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), and Flint (D.J Cotrona) survive to fight the bad guys, avenge their fallen buddy, and prevent nuclear war. Eventually the Joes team up with Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and his protégé Jinx (Elodie Yung), and they even track down the original Joe (Bruce Willis) to help in the mission, but poor Duke spends the rest of the movie as just a set of dog tags.

Director Jon M. Chu (Justin Beiber: Never Say Never) does a halfway-decent job putting together what amounts to little more than The Expendables lite. The action sequences all have an admirably cheesy comic book feel, and the testosterone-fueled members of the audience will have plenty to “hoo-ah!” about. But beyond that, there’s not a whole lot here to sink your teeth into.

The one exception is halfway through, during a mind-blowing fight sequence set in the Himalayas, as Snake Eyes and Jinx repel and zipline their way to victory over the evil henchmen. It’s as stunningly choreographed a fight scene as anything to hit the screen so far this year, made even better with 3D (which was added in post-production and is the party line for the nine-month delay).

Johnson does a fine job steering the ship, but his performance is just a shadow of the excellent work he did in the woefully overlooked Snitch back in February. It’s actually Pryce who ends up stealing the show, breathing some life into the film with his admirable work as both President and imposter.

Retaliation does work well as a sequel to the original, providing plenty of guns, bombs, and ninja fights. And, of course, the world is saved (well, except for poor London), and the Joes become heroes once more.

We just don’t have Channing Tatum to thank for it.

3/5 stars