‘G.I. Joe’ makes
for late summer guilty pleasure
By Ben Saylor
Published Aug. 12, 2009
Joe: The Rise of Cobra’
Runtime: 118 minutes
wanted to hate “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.” I really did.
I mean, this is a movie that, in the run-up to its
release, seemed to possess all the right ingredients to make a film
snob like me turn his nose up in disgust. There was the trailer,
which made the movie seem like a corny, thrill-free bore. Then came
distributor Paramount Pictures’ decision to withhold the film from
critics’ screenings, nearly always a bad omen.
With all of this in mind, I smugly took my seat last
Sunday to take in “G.I. Joe.” A little more than two hours later
(counting previews), I walked into the blistering afternoon sun
in a state of shock.
Now, don’t get me wrong. “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”
is not a good movie. In fact, from an artistic, film snob standpoint,
the movie is indefensible. And yet, despite the film’s myriad flaws
(indeed, sometimes because of them), I found myself enjoying “G.I.
Joe” more than the majority of the other “popcorn flicks” I’ve recently
subjected myself to. If I were 12 years old, this would probably
be my favorite movie.
Byeong-heon and Ray Park in Paramount Pictures' G.I. Joe: The
Rise of Cobra. (Photo by Frank Masi/Paramount Pictures)
Based on a toy line from Hasbro (just like Paramount’s
abysmal “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”), “G.I. Joe” tells
the story of an elite, international unit of soldiers who must take
action when evil arms magnate (is there ever a benevolent arms dealer
in the movies?) McMullen (Christopher Eccleston) uses NATO funds
to build his deadly nanomite warheads and then steals them back
in order to destroy major cities.
Aiding McMullen in his quest is the beautiful, pistol-packing
Baroness (Sienna Miller), who just happens to be the ex-fiancée
of Duke (Channing Tatum), a soldier who uses his knowledge of the
Baroness to get a spot on G.I. Joe for himself and pal Ripcord (Marlon
Wayans). They join crossbow-wielding genius Scarlett (Rachel Nichols,
briefly glimpsed in “Star Trek” earlier this year), communications
whiz Breaker (Saïd Taghmaoui), the silent, masked Snake Eyes (Ray
Park) and the no-nonsense Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje)
under the leadership of General Hawk (Dennis Quaid, acting like
he’s being paid by the growl).
The acting of the film is generally one note; of the
cast, Eccleston, Quaid and Wayans seem to be having the most fun,
even if they’re not always the most fun for the audience to watch.
But no one remembers the acting from a movie like
“G.I. Joe.” What they remember (if they remember anything) is the
action, which “G.I. Joe” delivers in spades. The film’s threadbare
plot allows plenty of room for action sequence after action sequence,
from the opening firefight between U.S. soldiers and a Baroness-led
squad to a climactic underwater dogfight. The highlight for me,
however, was a chase in Paris, with Duke and Ripcord pursuing the
Baroness in “accelerator” suits, hydraulic gear that makes the wearer
run faster, jump higher, etc. This is the sequence that, if I were
currently 12 years old, I would probably have injured myself trying
Make no mistake: “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” is
a pretty stupid movie. But darn it, it’s also, pretty entertaining