by Hope Madden
Stay with me. Remember how bad Mortal Kombat was? Like, bad, but kind of so stick-to-your-guns bad, so full of head-bursting ridiculousness and terrible acting that it somehow felt right?
Take that, neuter it completely so you don’t even see any blood regardless of the wall-to-wall swordplay, invest in great-looking scenery and one A-list actor, and you essentially have the new G.I. Joe movie, Snake Eyes.
Henry Golding is that A-lister, an American with a questionable accent and some barely hidden rage issues. A dice game gone bad left him emotionally scarred (thought it did lend him that cool moniker) and now he fistfights his way from one town to the next.
That is, until a shady Yakuza man offers him a chance at vengeance in return for some labor. The next thing you know, Snake Eyes is mixed up in ninja training, clan warfare and global domination, or some such nonsense.
Director Robert Schwentke is pretty hamstrung with the PG-13 rating. His film is based on a children’s cartoon, after all. Sure, that cartoon promotes armed conflict in every single episode—as does this film—but you can’t show the result of any of that violence.
How cool would this movie be if Takashi Miike directed it? And how NC-17?
A girl can dream. But the reality is that Schwentke does about as well as he can within the limitations. The clanging swords are shiny, the motorcycles zip around like the ninjas they carry, and the hand-to-hand bouts stand out.
The acting, well, you know. And writing. Yeesh. Indeed, the writing is weak enough that both Golding and the proven Samara Weaving nearly choke on it. Andrew Koki as clan heir apparent Tommy struggles mightily, his character at war with what is expected of him. It calls for a lot of inner conflict.
It calls for a better script.
Haruka Abe likewise wrestles to find a character within this loyal security chief who’s unemotional and yet so very emotional. And wearing really high heels for someone called on to run this often.
Weaving at least seems to recognize that she is playing a cartoon character, and her performance is therefore reasonably cartoonish. Koki mopes, Abe whines. And Golding, well, he is very handsome.
The sets look great—from a super cool-looking Tokyo to the secret Arashikage compound to the cement pits for bare-knuckle brawling. That’s not really reason enough to watch it, though.