‘GI Joe: Retaliation’ is the second instalment of a movie franchise based on a kids’ toy, so it’s fitting that it feels like it could have been written by a seven-year-old, albeit one with an unusual interest in global politics and heavy artillery. After the relative box-office disappointment of 2009’s daft but enjoyable ‘The Rise of Cobra’, it looks as though some bright spark at Joe HQ decided that what the series needed was to lose its fun, post-‘Team America’ self-awareness and replace it with unironic jingoism, military-fetish hardware and heavy-handed nods to real world events.
The film kicks off with the assassination of the Pakistani president and a night-time raid into enemy territory which makes ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ look subtle and ends at an explosive nuclear disarmament conference. In between, we’re treated to some extremely haphazard plotting as Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) and his band of largely interchangeable free-world freedom fighters battle the evil forces of Cobra by gallivanting about shouting ‘hoo-rah!’ and randomly blowing things up.
Perceptive readers will note the absence in that synopsis of any mention of the first film’s star – and this film’s poster boy – Channing Tatum. There’s a reason for that, but frankly it’s so utterly bemusing that we won’t reveal it here. Let’s just say that this bonkers switcheroo – and an unexpectedly sublime mid-film Himalayan wire-fu sequence – represent the only two reasons to see ‘GI Joe: Retaliation’.