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Review: 'Retaliation' takes some risks, but is mostly ordinary 'Joe'

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After a delay in its release from last summer to now over a reported conversion of the film from 2D to 3D, the early prospects certainly didn't look good for "G.I. Joe: Retaliation." Now, with the conversion in place, the film -- based on the Hasbro action figure turned animated series -- arrives one day ahead of its rescheduled March 29 release, clearly in hopes of earning a little extra cash ahead of Easter weekend.

Unfortunately, the 3D conversion does little to enhance the film, which, instead of a traditional sequel to 2009's "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," comes off more like a reboot that's intent on erasing the memory of the first "Joe," which really wasn't all that bad to begin with. Under the direction of "Step Up" filmmaker Jon M. Chu, many of the cast members from "The Rise of Cobra" didn't make it to "Retaliation," and the one core member that did -- Channing Tatum -- has had his time scaled back considerably.

"Retaliation" essentially picks up where "The Rise of Cobra" left off, where the villainous Zartan, thanks to some pretty slick technology, maintains the identity of the U.S. president (Jonathan Pryce) so he can pull off COBRA's master plan of world domination with its shielded Commander (Luke Bracey steps in for Joseph Gordon-Levitt) by his side.

This time around, it's a new set of Joes -- and a very small set of them since a strike by COBRA nearly wiped out the entire unit in a raid -- who hatch a plan to unveil the president's true identity before begins to start taking out other countries around the globe. And, as these films often go, the clock is ticking …

See my review of the film on "KARE 11 News at 11" with Diana Pierce.

Dwayne Johnson effectively takes over as the star of the "G.I. Joe" franchise in "Retaliation" as Roadblock, a career soldier who refuses take a promotion until the slaughter of the unit leaves him with no choice to lead the other two remaining Joes, Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Cotrona).

Also, in a smart move, Chu brings Bruce Willis into "Retaliation" fold as the original G.I. Joe -- Joe Colton -- a retired general who keeps a heavy arsenal of weapons in every imaginable nook and cranny in his seemingly laid-back suburban home. Willis settles well into a supporting role here, and his previous work in the action genre makes his presence a welcome addition to the film.

As expected, "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" is full of whiz-bang effects and lots of crash-boom-bang, but the most exciting sequence comes with a face-off between the first film's ninja holdovers -- Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Storm Shadow (Byung hun-Lee). It's entertaining enough to see them launch into a high energy martial arts battle; but better yet, it escalates into a thrilling zip line chase-high wire battle on the sides of snow-covered cliffs with hordes of other ninjas.

While Chu's direction is fast-paced and his moves precise, clearly his choices were few given the limitations of the genre. He was, however, bold enough to kill off major characters in order to propel the story forward, and he mixes things up a bit by blurring the lines of loyalty of one particular character.

The film, which is no better or worse than the original, mainly achieves its mission of wrapping up the storyline of the first film. But then again, continuing where the original doesn't say a lot. If Chu is re-enlisted for another sequel, hopefully he'll continue to take risks in order to break free of this tired corner of the action adventure genre.

"G.I. Joe: Retaliation," rated PG-13, 2 stars out of four.

See a TV spot for "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" below.

What other local critics are saying …

Chris Hewitt of the Pioneer Press lauds the mountain range scene, but that's about it. In his 2 star review, Hewitt says "despite its nonstop violence, feels as simplistic and kiddish as a Saturday-morning TV show."

Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11” and WCCO Radio. As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed more than 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.

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