Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Snake Eyes
dir Robert Schwentke
scr Evan Spiliotopoulos, Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse
prd Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Brian Goldner, Erik Howsam
with Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Haruka Abe, Samara Weaving, Takehiro Hira, Eri Ishida, Iko Uwais, Peter Mensah, Ursula Corbero, Samuel Finzi, Steven Allerick, Max Archibald
release US 23.Jul.21,
UK 18.Aug.21
21/US Paramount 2h01

golding weaving uwais
See also:
The Rise of Cobra Retaliation

Is it streaming?

That pesky GI Joe franchise is back with a spin-off tale about a side character only toy lovers will be familiar with or care about. For the rest of us, the main interest here is likably gifted actor Henry Golding. The thinly written movie consists mainly of the usual shaky-cam action and snarling machismo. But Golding breathes enough life into the title role to make it worth a look.
After his father is killed, a young boy with no identity or family becomes Snake Eyes (Golding), a fierce street fighter recruited by fearsome Yakuza boss Kenta (Hira). When he rescues Japanese heir Tommy (Koji), the two become friends, and Snake Eyes begins working with Tommy's security chief Akiko (Abe) to become a member of the family force. But other factors are at work here, as Snake Eyes' ongoing quest for revenge compromises his training, and Kenta turns up with the fearsome Baroness (Cordero), who of course has a nefarious plan.
Director Schwentke keeps things moving, adding a grimy undertone that connects a series of otherwise rather random action set-pieces. So even if there's not much to the plot, and most of the characters have little nuance, there are nice edges here and there that hold the interest, mainly in the tensely brittle bromance Snake Eyes has with Tommy and the relentless flirtation he shares with Akiko. It helps that the production looks slick enough to survive some absurd fantastical elements.

Golding holds the audience's attention as the conflicted hero, struggling manfully between honour and vengeance. It's surprising that the script let's him get it wrong sometimes, almost turning him into an anti-hero who undermines his own journey. Opposite him, Koji and Abe are also more nuanced than expected. While Ishida (as Tommy's matriarch grandmother) and Mensah (as a blind warrior) get some terrific moments of their own. And Weaving makes a dramatic entrance as whizzy fighter Scarlett.

For a movie with a primary purpose to sell dolls to boys, it's unsurprising that there is so little actual interest in the narrative. Everything ticks along as expected, leading to enjoyably over-choreographed fight sequences as well as less interesting effects-based craziness. Through all of this, Golding impressively manages to almost infuse the film with a moral centre, allowing Snake Eyes to face up to his fears and emerge as someone who might deserve a franchise of his own, with a bit more help from the writers.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 16.Aug.21

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S

send your review to Shadows... Snake Eyes Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.

© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall