Director; Robert Schwentke. Starring; Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Haruka Abe. Rated PG-13. Color. 121 Minutes.
A fun toy series for kids when I was growing up that promoted the military, obviously an oxymoron, the “G.I. Joe” franchise has attempted to become much more serious over the past decade and a half. The supposed wholesome cartoon catch line “WELL NOW YOU KNOW, AND KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE.” from my youth has been replaced with big budget action. After the first two completely idiotic installments in this new version of the franchise, low-lighted by Bruce Willis insanely garnering a machine gun in the back of a truck, the series has decided to go back and showcase the origins of its most recognizable character. The black clothed super ninja that is almost always silent finally opens up in “Snake Eyes: G.I Joe Origins”. This samurai assassin is given a full back story, complete with multiple levels of life complications.
The “Crazy Rich Asians” star Henry Golding has decided to hang up his rom-com robe in exchange for a superhero suit. Golding plays Snake Eyes, a mercenary that bounces between underground cage fights and running guns across borders inside giant fish. Snake has a bad go of it in life from the beginning. A shady criminal organization shows up one day and burns his single father alive, forcing the child to grow up very quickly. The shady world Snake finds himself in as an adult is a secondary thought with finding his father’s killer being the number one priority on the list more than 20 years later.
The first major action sequence involving Snake as an adult vs a sledgehammer wielding opponent inside of a cage is an early on example of the biggest problem with “Snake Eyes”. Several positions in the making of a movie I do not blame based on the finished product. Editors are one of them. No full creative control. That said, whomever edited this movie as well as whatever producer/director input was involved must have Tourette’s syndrome. I will get to that.
During his shady business under the Yakuza boss Kenta (Takehiro Hira), Snake is tasked with killing a man he barely knows. That man is Tommy (Andrew Koji). Despite mounting tension, Snake refuses to kill Tommy as the two of them take out the gangsters with more Tourettes level action. The mercy non-kill is recognized by Tommy and this new duo head to Tokyo where his generations long surviving clan the Arashikage reside.
Despite Tommy’s endorsement, Snake is not exactly welcomed with open arms. Akiko (Haruka Abe) is the head of security for the clan I think? Her role is not exactly laid out. Iko Uwais, the bad ass star from “The Raid” movies plays The Hard Master, essentially the martial arts brains of the operation. Peter Mensah plays the most unique of the leadership group as The Blind Master, an advisor that SEES more than one would believe. All of these characters are run by the matriarch Himiko (Eri Ishida) who is hoping to retire and leave the clan to her grandson Tommy. That wish is not so simple.
The Arashikage clan is not simply a storied group of skilled warriors. Secretly this organization holds the key to why the renegade Snake Eyes is caught in the mists of a criminal war. Old boss Kenta is using Snake to get his hands on something Tommy’s crew has. A glowing orange stone with the ability to blow things up is hidden in the ancient temple of Arashikage, and Kenta is obsessed of finding this weapon. It’s always some mystical rock or stone or ring or secret manuscript now isn’t it with these movies.
Kenta is also working with the evil syndicate Cobra while one of the G.I. Joe members Scarlett (Samara Weaving) is brought in to help Snake Eyes stop the bad guys from obtaining the orange rock. Why the G.I. Joe and Cobra organizations have anything to do with this Yakuza conflict is beyond me. Everything culminates in a big battle at the Arashikage temple with Kenta using the rock to blow up buildings against granny Himiko, wielding her deadly Japanese fan, suddenly turning into the Tasmanian Devil on the battle field. Once again, almost all of this is chaos editing 101, Although, the one well done action scene comes in a climactic sword fight with Snake and Tommy facing off against a surrounding group of deadly assassins.
To be fair, “Snake Eyes” is the best film in the “G.I. Joe” franchise. Sort of like saying Chipotle is the best Mexican fast food restaurant nationally. I mean, Chipotle is basically competing with Taco Bell. That is what “Snake Eyes” is. The movie has multiple elements of total nonsense. But it can suffice if you are looking for a turn your brain off action flick. Henry Golding holds his own as an action star and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli showcases some flashy visuals when the editing is not butchering his style. Bottom line, “Snake Eyes” is one of those movies not as bad as you would expect. Just not by a whole lot.
Suck Factor: 4 out of 7 (7 Means Your Movie Really SUCKS!)
The SUCK FACTOR! How it works. We have flipped the script on the standard ratings system. If your movie is a masterpiece, “The Godfather” for example, you receive a perfect 0 SUCKS! If you make absolute garbage, say anything directed by Michael Bay, you will receive a 7, meaning your movie totally SUCKS!