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Movie review: 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation'

Posted 5:17pm on Thursday, Mar. 28, 2013

PG-13 (intense combat violence and martial arts action, brief sensuality, strong language); 110 min.

A better-than-average, gravity-defying ninja duel leads to an epic chase -- by leaps, swings and ziplines -- through the Himalayas in the big set-piece sequence of G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Masked villains in red ninja suits chase Snake Eyes and Jinx as they attempt to spirit a ninja villain out of a mountaintop lair. They scamper, by rope, across impossible slopes, swinging their swords.

And when a line is cut, the victim yowls into the void. It may be the most dazzling bit of business of its kind from the age of digital stunts.

The rest of the movie? Seriously, it's a live-action version of an '80s cartoon that was designed to sell toys. This is Transformers without the Bumblebee Camaro, a lot of action, a few one-liners and a lot of gunplay. And it was entrusted to the director of the Justin Bieber concert documentary. How good can it be?

It's got the biggest body count since, well, Olympus Has Fallen -- stabbings, shootings, blowings to bits. And barely a drop of blood.

But it has Dwayne Johnson, an action hero who knows his way around a raised eyebrow and a catchphrase. His character, the G.I. Joe-force sergeant known as Roadblock, quotes Jay-Z for motivational speeches. He's a father of two who tells his boss (Channing Tatum) that their little "extraction" from Pakistan (a country described as "a riot with a ZIP code") is so easy that they'll be "home in time for Top Chef." Only they aren't.

Things go boom and bodies go down and the one hour and 50 minutes zip by like, oh, two hours and 10. There's a "nuclear weapons are good for us" message that also seems positively '80s.

But at least there are no jive-talking, joking and pontificating robots.

Just ninjas. "Damn ninjas."

-- Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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