If you're buying a ticket for G.I. Joe: Retaliation because Channing Tatum is showcased in preview trailers, be seated at show time because he's out of the picture after 15 minutes.
If you're going as a Bruce Willis fan, take your time. He doesn't show up for 45 minutes, and if you're running late don't rush because after one scene he disappears for another half-hour.
And if you admire the way Dwayne Johnson's movie career has progressed lately don't bother seeing G.I. Joe: Retaliation at all. The charm, the chops, the desire to be considered as more than a sweaty side of beefcake is completely missing here. This is the kind of role that Johnson would have settled for two years ago and did.
Filmed in 2011, G.I. Joe: Retaliation's planned release last summer was postponed to allow its conversion to 3-D — never an improvement to any movie — and for Tatum to shoot a bit more footage, capitalizing on his post-Magic Mike stardom. The delay wasn't upsetting; after 2009's loud and dumb G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra nobody was especially itching for a sequel.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation is even louder and dumber, a collection of action set pieces ranging from mildly entertaining (a Himalayan zip-line fight) to dull (everything else), glommed together with comic book balloon dialogue. Ray Park as the good-guy ninja Snake Eyes gets the best lines because he remains silent but deadly. At one point before combat Johnson quotes "the immortal words of Jay-Z" and solely by comparison they are.
The Joes (and a couple of Josies) are framed by the evil organization Cobra for the assassination of Pakistan's leader by America's president who really isn't. Our president (Jonathan Pryce) has been kidnapped by Cobra and replaced by Zartan, disguised through "flawless microtechnology" to look like Pryce, who has some fun with the dual role. The Joes are mostly wiped out in an ambush ordered by the fake president, with only Roadblock (Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) left vowing revenge.
Snake Eyes was off in the Far East doing ninja stuff with the mystical Blind Master (RZA) and a Joe trainee named Jinx (Elodie Yung). Meanwhile, Cobra Commander and Destro (played by actors who should be grateful their faces aren't shown) are sprung from their subterranean suspended animation by Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee). That's six macho-silly names in two sentences, which must be some kind of record.
The plot clots into a typical world domination scenario with a countdown clock to beat. Willis as the original Joe comes out of retirement, stoking the movie's firearms fetish with a tour of his house, straight out of Better Homes and Arsenals. This movie never realizes how ridiculous anything it does truly is, right up to the last-second promise of another sequel.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow him on Twitter @StevePersall.