By: John M Jerva
REVIEW: G.I. JOE: RETALIATION EXTENDED ACTION CUT
STARRING: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Channing Tatum, Adrianne Palicki, D.J. Cotrona, Elodie Yung, Ray Stevenson, Ray Park, Arnold Vosloo, Byung-Hun Lee and Bruce Willis
DIRECTED BY: Jon M. Chu
In the continuing adventures of the G.I. Joe team, Duke (Channing Tatum), second-in-command Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), and the rest of the Joes (D.J. Cotrona, Byung-hun Lee) face a two-fold threat. Not only is their mortal enemy COBRA rearing its ugly head again, but there is also a threat from within the U.S. government: There might be an impostor in the White House. Meanwhile, Snake Eyes (Ray Park) is on a search for inner peace but learns that his nemesis, Storm Shadow, is still alive.
THE REVIEW: Ever since I was around the age of 7, I have been a super fan of the GI JOE legacy from its first appearance of the larger action figures to the 80’s where the elite fighting force grew in numbers to feature numerous characters with different skill sets and code names. From the Marvel comic book to the animated TV show that flooded the TV airwaves back in the day. I ate up everything that had to do with America’s premiere fighting force.
Back in 2009, a live action film named GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra was produced which was helmed by The Mummy director Stephen Sommers which featured Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Rachel Nichols, martial arts whiz Ray Park and Dennis Quad. That first film was a casualty of the writer’s strike that hit Hollywood in that time frame, and it was rushed into production before it was ever fully realized. The movie took its hits upon release and many die-hard fans criticized the film saying that it wasn’t any version of GI Joe that they remembered. I remember thinking to myself, how can that be when the brand had changed several times throughout the years. There are a few interpretations of the franchise and even though the film was loaded with cheese, it still was a hell of a ride.
Sure, Sommers version brought a more Sci-Fi approach to the topic but cheese and all, I enjoyed the hell out of it and thought it was a great summer popcorn flick. I was especially happy with Ray Park’s version of the elite Ninja commando Snake-Eyes and even though his mask had a mouth on it which was a weird choice at the time, I thought he kicked ass in the action scenes and his battle with Byung-Hun Lee as his rival Storm Shadow was a definite highlight of the film. Channing Tatum also was in fine form as Duke, the leader of the Joes, and while many thought he wasn’t right, I felt he was a younger and leaner version of the original character.
Fast Forward to 2013 and we had the sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation which was now directed by Jon M. Chu, who’s only claim to fame at the time was directing a documentary about Justin Bieber. That right there should have spelled doom for the project, but Chu surprised a lot of people and delivered a follow up that was in many ways a soft reboot of the original film and scrapped many of the original characters for newer ones while still keeping some of the plot points from the first film intact. The follow up came out in 2013 and I didn’t have my website running until a few years later so I didn’t do a proper review at the time. I am fixing that right now.
The cast was certainly amped up with the addition of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who was cast as Roadblock and while Channing Tatum only returned for a brief appearance due to scheduling conflicts, he still made a impact for the first part of the movie. I remember The Rock saying that he was franchise Viagra at the time as he had been added to sequels like the Fast and Furious films to make them better and to a point it is true as Johnson really brings his action A game to this one. Ray Park is also back and even though we don’t see his face behind the mask, he says a lot through his actions and the action set pieces that he is involved in.
Retaliation is a leaner more stripped-down version from the original which sets the story back to its realistic and gritty roots and forgoes the Sci-Fi approach taken in the first one. The second movie is more of a military action flick with traditional war elements, but we still have some cool gadgets and vehicles at the same time and, of course, Cobra Commander wants to rule the world.
Hollywood leading man Bruce Willis was also added in a small role as Joe Colton who is the original Joe and the reason why they call themselves that to this day. Willis has taken many shots from critics and fans alike over recent years for phoning in his performances and only making extended cameos in direct to video films but here as Joe Colton, Willis almost brings back his John McClane persona although he is still low key. Willis is only in the film for a limited time once again, but he does serve up some great action especially at the end of the film. The scene below is really his shining moment.
The rest of the cast do their part too including Adrianne Palicki from the Friday Night Lights TV show who plays Lady Jaye and essentially takes over for Rachel Nichols as Scarlett in the first film. Palicki is a strong female presence in the sequel and plays just as rough and tough as the men as does international action star Elodie Yung who would eventually play Elektra on the Netflix Daredevil series. Yung plays Jinx who is a protege of Snake-Eyes and she really shines in the action scenes. D.J. Cotona is admirable as Flint and while his character I believe is a younger version of the comic book one, Cotrona also brings it in the film’s thrilling moments and even gets to show off some rather fine parkour skills. Ray Stevenson who will always be my favorite Punisher after Jon Bernthal is a classic choice to play the sinister Cobra mercenary Firefly and he gets to deliver some memorable and nice lines like “Blowing up more stuff before 9 am then most people do all day.” Stevenson is a force of nature on screen, and he gets to have at it with The Rock in two scenes with the finale being a classic brawl of epic proportions and features some really kick ass Gun-Fu.
The best part of the sequel is the long and extended scene where Snake-Eyes and Jinx raid a secluded mountain top Ninja retreat in order to track down Storm Shadow and bring him home. The first film was lacking in its Ninja action but here Chu really does an outstanding job in fixing that problem and adds some intense Ninja on Ninja action including this scene which is a homage to one of the editions of the comic book where not a word is spoken as Snake-Eyes is on a mission. The Scene is just full-on martial arts bad assery including a swordfight while dangling off a mountain. It truly is the highlight of the film and the showdown between Snake and Storm Shadow really outshines the first film’s altercations.
Now this review is for the Extended Action Cut which I finally got to see last night, and I must say that I loved the film in its theatrical version and the longer cut of the movie enhances the action and storyline even more. Lots of times, you buy an extended cut of a movie only to be disappointed but here the Action Cut runs a full 12 minutes longer and really adds more carnage and mayhem to a few of the film’s bigger action scenes including the first one where the Joes assault a plant in order to get a stolen nuke. That scene for a PG-13 rated film is both exciting and raw in its power and how can you go wrong when The Rock is repelling down from a roof while opening up with a SAW machine gun. Action at its finest people. This scene really shows how elite the Joes are as the carve their way through the terrorists and the extended cut gives fans even more action and death.
Another difference in this version and it’s a big one is that the Jinx training scene is moved to the beginning, and it is extended to include more of the fight between Park and Yung and even though The RZA is included as The Blind Master, he didn’t ruin it for me. Would he have been my first choice? Absolutely not. This scene adds more impact to the storyline between Snake and Jinx and we get even more interaction between the two later on. Also added at the beginning is a nice scene where we get to see the Joes relax after a mission and it shows off some of the comradery between the members and even offers more time to be spent with Tatum as Duke as he and Roadblock playfully punish Cotrona’s Flint for going rogue on a mission.
There are also more little differences here and there like extended scenes and smaller added scenes, but the finale is another highlight in the extended cut where we get to see more violence and more action then in the theatrical cut. One awesome moment is where we get to see Jinx get more lethal and when she is joined by Snake-Eyes we get a real “Hell Yeah” moment at least for me which had me smiling from ear to ear. Some fans might not think so, but this longtime member of the GI Joe fan club loved it and anytime you add more thrills with everyone’s favorite Ninja Commando, it’s a win-win in my book. You can never have too much Snake-Eyes in my opinion, and I guess I’m not the only one who thinks that as they have now made a solo Snake-Eyes origin story that is set to hopefully still hit this October.
To sum everything up, I was a fan of both films with this one being my favorite and the extended cut only enhanced what I already loved from the initial version. There’s more interaction, more action, more Ninjas and more Snake-Eyes and for fans that really want to just enjoy it for the mindless action film that it is, the Extended Action Cut is the only way to truly get the most out of the experience. I’m just sad that we never got a third film as The Rock was never available for another installment but hopefully the new Snake-Eyes film and the planned new ensemble Ever Vigilant Movie will bring the franchise back into the light. I have always loved G.I. Joe more than Transformers and thought these two films were better than any one of that series. The Rock and crew bring it (pardon the pun) and I feel they give the fans the closest thing to a true Joe film that there is. It’s non-stop mayhem from start to finish and it left me yelling YO JOE! at the end.
The Extended Action cut is available on Amazon VOD and I strongly suggest that you check it out especially if you’re a true fan like me. There are Blu-Ray copies available on Ebay and other sites but they’re crazy expensive, but they are there if you have the funds. Amazon is only charging 13 and change for the Digital copy which is a steal for this hard-to-find treasure.
VERDICT: Theatrical Cut- 4 Out Of 5 Stars Extended Cut 4.5 Out Of 5 Stars
ACTION-FLIX APPROVED and a Hell of a lot of fun!