Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Premise: An origin story about the G.I. Joe character. An underground martial arts fighter (Henry Golding) is recruited by a yakuza boss to infiltrate a rival family. A crisis of conscience causes the fighter’s allegiances to split.
What Works: Henry Golding is well cast in the lead role. The film puts Snake Eyes in a complicated position. He allows himself to be recruited by the yakuza on the promise that he will get revenge on the criminal who murdered his father. But Snake Eyes’ singular focus on revenge leads him to ethically murky places which cause him to reassess what he wants and the kind of man he will be. That inner conflict is evident throughout Golding’s performance.
What Doesn’t: Snake Eyes follows two previous G.I. Joe feature films but this picture is disconnected from the other movies both narratively and stylistically. G.I. Joe started as a toy line that was adapted into a popular 1980s cartoon. The previous G.I. Joe movies had a comic book-like quality that Snake Eyes mostly abandons. The first half of this film has much more in common with The Bourne Identity and Casino Royale than it does with The Rise of Cobra or Transformers. That’s not necessarily bad but Snake Eyes feels generic and dour. A movie about a ninja super soldier ought to be more fun than this. Even the John Wick films, as self-serious as they could be, had fun with the bravado and the outrageous set pieces. The action of Snake Eyes is nothing special. The sequences are done competently but the set pieces lack any showmanship or style. The restrained and realistic scale of Snake Eyes is at odds with the latter half of the story. The film treads into the fantastical with magic rocks and gigantic snakes all of which are out of touch with the style of the rest of the film. Snake Eyes also has internal logical problems. For example, the yakuza is running guns but all of their henchmen carry katana swords. The ninja clan’s head of security, played by Haruka Abe, becomes aware that Snake Eyes is sneaking out of the compound and visiting the yakuza boss but she doesn’t bother to mention that to anyone else. Tommy, played by Andrew Koji, is on the trajectory to be the new leader of the clan but his character makes a hard turn into villainy that is forced and inconsistent with his character.
Bottom Line: The previous G.I. Joe feature films weren’t very good but they at least tried to have some fun with the material. The filmmakers of Snake Eyes want to be taken seriously but this movie is generic and forgettable.
Episode: #862 (August 1, 2021)