Monthly Archives: January 2013

H is for… Hard Target

Hard Target was one of the few action movies I could find that started with H.  It’s also the first on my list to have a repeat director (John Woo) and a repeat villain (Arnold Vosloo, who was in G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra).

Coincidentally, it has a fairly unoriginal plot; it’s a modern rehashing of Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game.”  Natasha (Yancy Butler) seeks her father and learns he’s homeless, and befriends a man named Chance (Jean-Claude Van Damme) to help her navigate New Orleans to look for him.  They stumble upon a service wherein rich people pay a company run by Fouchon (Lance Henriksen) to hunt homeless veterans, and one of their victims was Natasha’s father.  Fortunately, Chance grew up on the bayou and is able to navigate the hunters through the wilderness and lead them to a warehouse of Mardi Gras floats.  A massive shout out occurs, and with the help of Natasha and his Uncle Douvee (Wilford Brimley), Chance is able to kill all of Fouchon’s men (including Vosloo’s Pik van Cleef).

That seems like… not a lot of plot for a 97-minute movie.  Half of the move is spent developing the Fouchon/van Cleef business, and Natasha getting saved from thugs by Chance, and then getting him to help her look for her father.  It’s quite a long build up considering the viewer is most likely watching for the action scenes.

That said, there is plenty with which to round out the categories!

 

A is for… Accents

Chance of course has Van Damme’s Belgian French accent, which really just sounds kind of strange in New Orleans.

Van Cleef has Vasloo’s South African accent.

Uncle Douvee has what I’m guessing is a French accent, to match Van Damme’s.

 

B is for… Bad Guys

Like with the film Commando, we see the villains before we see the hero (in G.I. Joe the viewer doesn’t know who the bad guy is at first).

At first the villains are dark shapes chasing a homeless man, and they eventually shoot him with arrows.  Scenes of Fouchon, van Cleef, and their associate Randal (Eliott Keener) are intercut with scenes of Natasha and Chance searching for Natasha’s father.  Van Cleef and Fouchon aren’t above torturing Randal, who provides them with the homeless veterans, when he doesn’t provide them with the proper victims.  His job is to find war veterans with no human ties, but instead provides Natasha’s father, and she of course realizes he’s missing.

Fouchon’s base seems to be out of a beautiful planation home.  He plays the piano and watches himself in the mirror, and wears saddle shoes.  He and van Cleef offer the “opportunity to kill with impunity” to private citizens who are in their own “unhappy little corner of the planet.”  Fouchon’s company has bought the cops and the doctor who does autopsies (Marco St. John).

Fouchon is actually very compelling, which is all due to Henriksen’s presence and deep growly voice.  He’s much more interesting to watch than Chance, as he’s personally invested in what he’s doing and ensuring they don’t get caught at it.  Ultimately Fouchon’s own pride is his downfall; he refuses to shoot Chance from a helicopter because it wouldn’t be a challenge.  Forcing the confrontation happen on the ground is what leads to his death.

Van Cleef isn’t very well developed, though he is suitably creepy as Fouchon’s right-hand man.  It’s notable that at one point he wants to give up, but Fouchon refuses.

Fouchon’s company charges $500,000 for each hunt, during which the clients are provided with a guide, trackers, and their weapon of choice.  Fouchon’s men will also dispose of the body and provide an out of town, airtight alibi.  The clients can’t talk over Telex or the phone (Telex being a precursor to fax machines and email).  During the hunt the prey is given a satchel with $10,000 and is told he has to carry that satchel ten miles through the city to the river, and if he makes it he gets to keep it.  He’s given a five minute head start.

 

C is for… Chases

Not surprisingly, there are numerous chases in this film about hunting, including Chance and Natasha being chased on foot through the bayou.

The film opens with a chase, as a homeless man is chased by bad guys both on foot and on motorcycles, which doesn’t quite seem fair.

Another veteran (Willie C. Carpenter) is chased through a cemetery, and after he escapes his hunters there they follow him through the city (him on foot, them in cars and motorcycles) and kill him in the middle of the street.

While van Cleef and his men are shooting at Chance, Natasha, and the police detective (Kasi Lemmons), Chance steals one of their motorcycles, and the bad guys pursue him, firing at him the whole time.

In a more diversified chase, Chance is riding a horse and is being pursued by a helicopter.  He leads the bad guys to an old warehouse, and Fouchon and his minions follow in Jeeps and motorcycles.

 

D is for… Damsels

Natasha originally comes to New Orleans to look for her father, Doug Binder (Chuck Pfarrer), only to learn that he’s recently been homeless.  She hires Chance to help her, to the tune of $217 for two days.

What’s really notable about Natasha is that while she doesn’t really help Chance a lot, for the most part she stays to the side and doesn’t get in his way.  She’s rather undeveloped, but considering her storyline drags on unnecessarily and isn’t really required for the overall concept behind the film, that’s fine.  Honestly, the movie drags through its first half, when it’s Natasha and Chance wandering around, up until they’re actually being hunted.

 

E is for… Explosions

During the opening chase scene, a building explodes when bullets intended for Doug Binder hit it.

During the chase with Chance stealing a motorcycle, another motorcycle explodes for no reason.  Chance of course does a wheelie to pop over it.

Chance fires his acquired gun into a Jeep, and it of course explodes.  It explodes a second time when it gets shot again by the bad guys.

When the snake gets shot in the head, its head explodes.

In John Woo style, bullets fired from the helicopter explode in a shower of sparks on impact with the ground.

Uncle Douvee blows up his own moonshine and home with dynamite.

Chance throws a gas tank into the air, which then explodes when he shoots it.

A grenade gets thrown at the pelican float that Chance is dramatically riding, and it explodes.

Chance shoves a grenade down Fouchon’s pants, and while he is able to get it out and disassemble it, it still sparks and ignites.

 

F is for… Flashbacks

Chance has a flashback to all the good guys who died during the course of the film, including Binder, the other homeless vet, and the detective.

 

G is for… Guns

Details at the IMFDB.

What’s interesting about the film is that the first weapons shown are actually a bow and arrows with three edges.  This movie would be all the rage now considering the massive upheaval in the interest in archery thanks to movies and shows like The Hunger Games, Marvel’s The Avengers, Arrow, and Revolution.

One of the bad guys fires arrows from what looks like a gun, not a crossbow.

The men assisting with the hunting also have machine guns, which also seems unfair.

Another interesting but not gun-related use of weaponry occurs when Chance is attacked while investigating Binder’s murder; the minions attack him with a rope on a stick (like a catch pole) and a baseball bat.

Van Cleef fires a silenced gun through a peephole to kill the medical examiner.

Fouchon’s client Zenan hunts with what looks like an assault weapon.  The tables are turned when his prey gets a hold of it and shoots him with it.

Van Cleef uses the butt of his rifle as a club to break Randal’s car window.  He then shoots him with an explosive result, all over the car’s windshield.

Van Cleef and the police detective engage in a shootout, him with his rifle, her with her service weapon.  More and more bad guys with machine guns join in as Chance fights back by snagging the service weapon and more and more of the bad guys’ weapons as they drop.

Fouchon has a notable single shot pistol that he aims by steadying it on his forearm, and he carries the bullets in a belt around his waist.  It’s, frankly, a little strange compared to the amount of automatic weapons around him.

Uncle Douvee has kept Chance’s old shotgun in his home, though it’s quite dusty because he hasn’t seemed to be taking care of it.

The bad guys open up a storm of bullets on Uncle Douvee’s shack.  Needlessly.

Uncle Douvee also uses a bow and arrows, and uses them to ignite his moonshine and ignite dynamite.

As Chance escapes his uncle’s shack, the bad guys fire at him, and hit an outbuilding instead.  It proceeds to explode.

Chance seems to be a fairly accurate shot while on horseback, even though the men in the helicopter can’t seem to hit him.

The last 20 or so minutes of the movie is basically a shootout.

Hilariously, Chance strips a pistol off of a bad guy and doesn’t bother to turn it around before firing it, so he unloads the magazine into another bad guy with the gun upside down.

Natasha steals a gun and shoots a bad guy with it multiple times, which makes Uncle Douvee angry.  He seems to like the finesse of quieter weapons.

Fouchon has Natasha load his gun for him as he’s holding her hostage, as Chance charges him.  The confrontation becomes gun versus flying kick, and somehow the flying kick wins.

 

H is for… Helicopters

Fouchon has a helicopter he can call on to drop off more hunters and track prey by air.

 

I is for… Improvisation

Chance has to use what he can get from picking up bad guys’ weapons and vehicles.  Jumping onto the train to escape the bridge is clever, though exiting the train in a muddy area was not.

An arrow is used to ignite Uncle Douvee’s moonshine, which itself is used to kill some bad guys and distract them from Chance’s escape.

Chance uses the floats in the warehouse to great effect.

 

J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects

Doug Binder falls through the dock early in the movie.

In the initial fight where Chance meets Natasha, he kicks a thug through a window.

At the warehouse, Chance leaps through a window, then does it again in a totally different position.  Did no one in the editing room notice that at all?

 

K is for… Kill Count

Chance pretty much kills every single one of Fouchon’s thugs, with Douvee’s and Natasha’s help.  They get shot, blown up, burned, or some combination thereof.  For some reason Chance shoots most of them in the groin first.

 

L is for… Limitations

Other than being severely outnumbered, Chance doesn’t seem to have any limitations.  He obviously has combat training, and knows the area better than the bad guys.  Up until the very end, his uncle and Natasha don’t even get in the way.

 

M is for… Motivation

As usual, the bad guys’ motivation is money.  Fouchon charges $500,000 per hunt, and $750,000 for the hunt against Chance.

As the film progresses, Fouchon is motivated to eliminate Chance at all costs.

Natasha wants to find her father, then solve his murder.

Chance wants money to help Natasha, but once they’re being hunted they want to live, which involves taking out Fouchon and all of his men.

 

N is for… Negotiation

Chance negotiates with Randal; he wants info about the homeless men, and threatens him for it.

Fouchon takes Natasha hostage to force Chance to put down his weapons.

 

O is for… One Liners

Maybe it’s the accent, or maybe it’s the writing, but a lot of Chance’s lines come out as sounding like one liners.

Thug: Why don’t you do yourself a favor?

Chance: I think the favor gonna be done for you.

Chance: You know it’s a shame.  This used to be a nice part of town.

Chance: Would love to help you, but I’m gonna be out of town. (thinks about job on ship) Way out of town.

Chance: Maybe I’m sticking around to run for Mayor.

Detective: You have a real talent, Mr. Boudreaux, for attracting violence.

Chance: What are you going to arrest me for, getting beat up without a license?

Natasha: You look awful.

Chance: You hurt my feelings.

Detective: The wheels turn slow around here.

Chance: Real slow.

Fouchon: This is New Orleans, Mr. Zenan, not Beirut!

Fouchon: God, why didn’t he go fishing?

Fouchon: Now you understand why we insist on payment up front.

Chance: Looks like we missed the party.

Fouchon: It appears we’ll have one last hunt after all.

Natasha: Shouldn’t we be worried about alligators or something?

Chance: If it’ll make you feel better, yeah.

Chance: I’ve got some people after me.

Uncle Douvee: I know.  I can smell them.

Uncle Douvee: Drink. But don’t spill.  Kill the grass.

Van Cleef, to Fouchon: It appears your trophy is ripping you a new orifice.

Fouchon: He’s an annoying fucking insect, and I want him stepped on.  Hard.

Uncle Douvee: Now we put arrows into everyone that’s not Chance.

Natasha: Can you get up?

Uncle Douvee: I cannot dance.  But I can get up.

Fouchon: What made you want to complicate my life like this?

Chance: Poor people get bored too.

Chance: Hunting season…is over.

Uncle Douvee, about his flask with a bullet hole in it: This real catastrophe.  This real bad.

 

P is for… Profession

When we first meet Chance, he has no money and playing with his food—soup or stew of some kind—in a dingy diner.  However he’s clearly a skilled kick boxer, as demonstrated when he takes out the four goons trying to harm Natasha.  During this scene he pulls aside his jacket as if to reveal something on his belt (like a badge or gun), but it’s just empty.  Perhaps this shot—in slow motion—was to increase audience expectation that Chance was a member of law enforcement, then slam home the fact that he isn’t.

He stands on the dock tying a rope, and it’s then revealed that he’s a merchant seaman waiting for assignment.  He had a problem with a prior captain, who was smuggling opium, and Chance broke his jaw.  He owes $217 in dues before he can get back to work.

Fouchon learns that Chance, his new prey, was awarded a silver star and was a member of Marine force recon.  He was also raised in the bayou by his uncle, and Fouchon describes the bayou as being Chance’s country.  All of this, and Chance knowing the truth about what’s going on, makes Chance the perfect prey for Fouchon’s final New Orleans hunt.

 

Q is for… Quagmire

This is another one of those movies where the hero doesn’t have enough limitations for the viewer to ever think he’s truly in danger.  Fouchon’s men can’t hit anything with their guns, Chance is ex-military and knows the region, and even while being grossly out numbered, he doesn’t seem to even break a sweat while killing all of the bad guys.

 

R is for… Reality

Perhaps it’s just that the idea has been used countless times since Connell’s story, but the overall plot doesn’t seem too far-fetched at all.  It’s almost too easy to believe there are people out there who organize hunts of other people.

I will, however, call nonsense on the way Chance is able to shoot accurately while standing on the seat of a moving motorcycle.

 

S is for… Sidekicks

As I’ve mentioned, Natasha is a sidekick in the sense of she at least doesn’t get in Chance’s way and in fact kills a guy in the warehouse.  He’s even more her sidekick as she tries to find her father.  But she’s definitely more of the “damsel” than a full-fledged sidekick.

Uncle Douvee is an amazingly amusing man who obviously loves Chance and is willing to do just about anything for him, including blow up all of his possessions and moonshine.  He participates by getting Chance and Natasha horses, giving Chance a gun, distracting the bad guys with explosions, and bringing his bow and arrows to the warehouse to help kill some bad guys.  He has a thick accent and says the funniest things while helping Chance and Natasha.

 

T is for… Technology

Unlike John Woo’s epic masterpiece Face/Off, there is very little technology in Hard Target.  There are no computers, the movie is pre-Internet, and the plot doesn’t lend itself to gadgets and electronic toys, or at least not in a rundown area of New Orleans.

 

U is for… Unexpected Romance

The future relationship of Natasha and Chance is left utterly open.  The film ends with Chance, Natasha, and Uncle Douvee leaving the warehouse.  There was no overt romantic or sexual interaction between Natasha and Chance, and odds are they part ways after explaining everything to the authorities.  They don’t even live in the same city, and Chance is probably going to go back to his merchant marine job.

 

V is for… Vehicles as Weapons

The opening chase scene has a motorcycle being used to knock Doug Binder off a fence.

Most of the rest of the vehicles seem to become weapons on their own after they catch fire, while not necessarily being intentional weapons driven into people or objects.

 

W is for… Winning

In one motion, Chance runs, slides under a table onto his back, and shoots up into van Cleef’s legs, ultimately killing him.  Likely many times over.

Chance shoves a grenade down Fouchon’s pants, after kicking him and knocking his weapon away.  Fouchon is able to get it out and try to dismantle it, but after taking the top off he kind of chuckles at it instead of throwing the pieces in opposite directions.  The grenade of course proceeds to explode.

The entire hunting organization seems to be destroyed at this point; there’s certainly no indication that Fouchon was part of a larger project.

 

X is for… X-rays, or Maybe You Should See a Doctor

Chance is injured but not too badly.  His uncle actually patches him up.  I don’t think he’s hurt at all during the final fight.

 

Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem

Randal using the wrong homeless guy led to Natasha looking for her father, Chance getting involved, his own death, and ultimately the downfall of the entire organization.  Fouchon needed to hire somebody better.

 

Z is for… Zone, in the

In order to demonstrate how much of a badass Chance is, he has to fight four thugs without weapons, and does so neatly.

He also manipulates the floats and the warehouse like he owns the place, so perhaps he’s been there before or is really good at assessing locations and how things work in them.

 

So, that’s Hard Target.  It takes quite a while to get started, but once Chance and Natasha are finally being hunted it’s quite entertaining.  Lance Henriksen is extremely convincing and creepy as Fouchon, and Vasloo adds a sinister second-in-command in van Cleef.  I’ve read reviews ragging on Van Damme’s acting, but considering the part, he seems fine.  He has a lot of cheesy lines, though.  Natasha was an okay character, though her thick, dark eyebrows were kind of distracting.

I do want to point out the ridiculousness of Chance punching out the rattlesnake, because such a silly thing deserves mention.  It may not even be the action, but the sound effect used, that’s so amusing.

The final battle scene in the warehouse full of floats is unique, and provided a lot to look at.

But oh my God, the SLOW MOTION.  The movie probably could have been five minutes shorter if there wasn’t slow motion trying to lend gravity to so many seemingly inconsequential things.  We get it, there’s action or something happening here.  Hopefully.  Slow motion is not a way to add edginess and severity to action scenes!  It loses its effectiveness when used too often.  But yes, along with birds and the split screen standoff thing, it’s obviously a Woo trademark, as Face/Off had some of it, too.

Hard Target has a lot going for it, but it could have been streamlined, and Chance more developed.  Henriksen’s Fouchon is excellent, though.

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G is for… G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Let me preface this analysis of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (directed by Stephen Sommers) by explaining that the only knowledge I had of the “G.I. Joe universe” before watching the movie is that the action figures were fully articulate, “G.I” stands for “government issued,” and something about a Cobra.  And oh yeah, someone at this year’s Halloween party was dressed as someone named “Snake Eyes.”

So I had to rely solely on the movie for story and characters.

…this was, shall we say, an unfortunate circumstance.  But one I was expecting considering one of the production companies listed in the beginning was Hasbro.  If I seem ignorant and like I missed something, it’s because I am and did!

But I will admit, if I’m in the mood for some explosions, cheesy dialogue, and special effects creating establishing shots that look like Microsoft sample wallpapers, and wondering just why Dennis Quaid needed money this badly, I may turn to G.I. Joe.  I may even make it a holiday tradition, considering that this year valuable holiday movie time resulted in G.I. Joe eclipsing A Christmas Story.  For shame, I know.

Let’s see, how to describe the plot…  The movie opens, strangely enough, in 1641 France, where a Scottish guy named McCullen (David Murray) gets a mask burned onto his face due to him being slimy (not literally, he was found guilty of treason).  Cut to the “not too distance future,” whatever the heck that means, and another McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) is presenting weaponized nanomites concealed in four warheads to a group of military professionals.  Once activated the nanomites take apart whatever they touch until they are deactivated.  An Army unit is given the job of transporting the warheads but they are ambushed by a UFO full of soldiers and a chick in tight black clothes.  But wait, mysterious people with futuristic weapons intervene, and the bad guys fly off.  Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) are the only Army guys to make it through, and the mysterious people take them with them.

To… Egypt.  There’s a super-sekrit base called The Pit underneath the desert, and that’s where the “Joes” have their home base.  Duke and Ripcord undergo a series of tests to prove that they’re worthy of being Joes, and they become part of the Joe team.  Meanwhile, it’s revealed that the chick in tight black clothes (Ana, former romantic partner of Duke) works with McCullen, who’d been trying to steal his own warheads back.  Which Ana (Sienna Miller) does for him during a raid of The Pit, with the help of Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee).  A group of Joes—Duke, Ripcord, Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), Snake Eyes (Ray Park), Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and Breaker (Saïd Taghmaoui)—tracks them to Paris.

Meanwhile, McCullen’s other sidekick is The Doctor (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an expert in nanomite technology who has perfected the technique of using nanomites to take over people’s bodies and use them as slaves, or “nanovipers.”  The nanomites can also change a person’s appearance as necessary so another person can be replicated (or replaced), and this procedure is done to Zartan (Arnold Vosloo).

Back in Paris, the Joes engage in a chase of Ana and Storm Shadow, eventually realizing that they’re heading to the Eiffel Tower.  Unfortunately they don’t get to them in time—more on why not in the Chase section—and the tower is destroyed by the nanomites before they can be deactivated.  Also, Duke is captured by Ana and brought to McCullen’s super-sekrit fortress under the North Pole.

The Joes are ordered by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid) to return to The Pit, but he agrees he never said when or what route to take, which encourages them to go find Duke.  He makes it easy for them by engaging the tracking beacon on the suitcase housing the warheads.  The Joes engage a full assault on the fortress, while Duke learns that The Doctor is actually Rex, Ana’s younger brother, whom he failed to keep safe as he promised when Rex was in his Army unit.  It’s also revealed that Ana’s personality changes since their relationship are the result of having nanomites in her body, courtesy of Rex.

During the climactic fight sequence, Snake Eyes kills Storm Shadow, The Doctor puts a nano-mask onto McCullen and declares he is now Destro, Ana gets shaken out of her nano-stupor, and the fortress is destroyed, but not before the three remaining warheads are launched towards Moscow, Washington, DC, and Beijing.  Snake Eyes blows up the Beijing one right away using the rocket launcher on one of the Joes’ snow mobiles.  Ripcord gets to demonstrate his flight skills by stealing McCullen’s jet and chasing after the other warheads.  He’s able to shoot them down before they cause too much damage.

The film ends with Ripcord and Scarlett in a relationship, Ana and Duke in a relationship, The Doctor—now the self-proclaimed Cobra Commander—and Destro in Joe prison, and Zartan in the Oval Office, impersonating the President.

If that sounds confusing, that’s because it is.  There are too many characters and too much expectation that the viewer knows anything about G.I. Joe in general.  The flashy special effects are also distracting.  There is, however, plenty of action and plenty of stuff for the criteria, so let’s begin.

 

A is for… Accents

Because the movie opens in 1641 France, everyone in that scene has an accent.  Why they couldn’t have actors speaking French and the viewer reading subtitles, I don’t know.  It’s a little jarring.

McCullen is Scottish, so, and I hate to say it, everything he says sounds slightly more maniacal than it’s meant to.

Ana’s husband the Baron de Cobray (Grégory Fitoussi) is French.

Storm Shadow is Japanese.

Duke actually comments on the Joes clearly not being Army because of all the different accents represented.  Heavy Duty is British, and Breaker is from Morocco.

 

B is for… Bad Guys

McCullen is depicted as the main villain, with The Doctor and Ana as his sidekicks.  McCullen weapons dealing goes back to the McCullen in the opening scene, nicknamed “Destro the destroyer of nations.”  Of course, this is exactly what current day (or future day) McCullen is doing, by developing weapons for the military and then stealing them back.  It’s explained that MARS (Military Armaments Research System), McCullen’s company, builds 70% of all the arms on the planet.  The tools are divided into sword (weaponry) and shield (defenses).  Overall McCullen is depicted as the power-hungry schemer, while The Doctor is really the brains and craziness behind the operation.

The Doctor is actually Rex, Ana’s younger brother who was also in Duke’s Army unit.  Rex was told to go into a bunker and Duke and Ripcord would follow him in five minutes.  Unfortunately the air strike was early, and the bunker got bombed.  Believed dead, Rex was buried and Ana grieved and didn’t forgive Duke, which is one reason they broke up.

However, before the bunker got destroyed, Rex saw the nanomite technology at work, changing someone’s appearance.  He also met Dr. Mindbender (Kevin J. O’Connor), who promised if Rex didn’t kill him, he’d show him how to use the technology.  Somehow, the combination of Rex getting horribly burned in the bombing, seeing the tech, and learning how to use it made Rex insane for power—or something, it’s kind of a tenuous link—and resulted in him ultimately donning a mask and declaring that the Cobras will now call him “Commander.”  Big words considering he ends the movie locked in a cell.

Ana is Duke’s former fiancée, and seems to only be “bad” because of the nanomites in her system.  She had no idea The Doctor was Rex.  Nanomites or not, she’s quite capable at hand-to-hand combat and weapons.

By the end of the film, the President of the United States is replaced with Zartan, which was part of McCullen’s plan for controlling the world—having the President under his power.

In my analysis I refer to the bad guys as “bad guys” because if you don’t know they’re supposed to be “Cobra” you wouldn’t from this movie.  The Doctor does love cobras but there isn’t any sort of unified organization.

 

C is for… Chases

There’s only one major chase scene designed as mid-film action, and while it’s rather entertaining, it’s also incredibly stupid.

In Paris, Storm Shadow and Ana have the warheads, and they’re driving a black Hummer.  The Joes—Duke, Ripcord, Snake Eyes, Heavy Duty, Scarlett, and Breaker—are driving a grayish van.  Snake Eyes almost immediately leaves the van and chases the Hummer on foot.  He actually catches up with it and hangs onto its roof, which allows the Joes to follow its progress because he has a tracking bug on him.  Duke and Ripcord also give chase on foot, but they’re in specialized accelerator suits that allow people to run faster, be stronger, and jump further, and have weapons built in and can withstand a lot of damage.  (Yes, add some repulsors and they’re basically Iron Man suits.)  Scarlett also steals a motorcycle off a passerby and chases using that.

The problem with this chase is multifold:

A) too much of it is clearly CGI and/or extremely fake, which is distracting.  This is most noticeable when the villains’ Hummer “explodes” and the flames originate away from it.  There are also a lot of cartoony background shots and cars flipping.

B) A lot of cars get flipped over.  Yes, the Hummer has a specialized cowcatcher on the front, and various explosions are happening between it and Duke and Ripcord, but if someone played a drinking game every time a car flipped a dozen or more feet in the air, he’d be drunk in no time.

C) Scarlett’s bike moves in a serpentine manner.  Seriously, that thing skids around using non-mechanical movements for a bike.

D) The Hummer is driving through rush hour traffic, which even the Joes comment on as they wonder why the Hummer would go through so much traffic if it were trying to get away from them, which is when they realize it’s not trying to get away, it’s trying to go somewhere, yet Duke and Ripcord can’t seem to catch up with it.  Yes, guns are being fired at them.  But if they’d paid more attention to where they were going, they should have been able to catch up because they’re more maneuverable than the huge Hummer.  Especially considering Snake Eyes caught up with it on foot.  Maybe they shouldn’t have spent so much time screwing around before actually starting the chase.

E) Eventually Snake Eyes drops off the Hummer because he knows—somehow—a train is about to smash into it.  Ripcord and Duke go through and over the train respectively, as the Hummer flips into the air, crashes, and explodes, killing the driver.  Ana and Storm Shadow have to run the rest of the way to the Eiffel Tower (well, the lab nearby where they’re going to have her husband activate the warheads) on foot.  Which they do.  So why the heck don’t Duke, Ripcord, and Snake Eyes chase after them?  Snake Eyes totally disappears during all of this, and Duke and Ripcord sort of lie in the street for a while bantering before remembering they’re supposed to be chasing after the warheads.

Why?!

And where the heck is Scarlett during all of this?

Another chase is Ripcord flying McCullen’s jet after the missiles.  He catches the one from Moscow fairly easily, but of course has trouble chasing down the one headed for Washington, DC.  Cue a lot of banter and dizzying special effects.

 

D is for… Damsels

Yet another action movie with distractingly useless or stereotyped female characters.

The viewer is first introduced to Ana, as she and her men try to steal the warheads from Duke’s men.  The second he recognizes her, the viewer surely groans as he or she anticipates a poorly executed romantic subplot.  She’s quite a peach as she flirts with McCullen and reveals she’s married, but the manipulation is okay because she’s only married to her husband for his particle accelerator.  …no, that’s not a euphemism.  Ana is quite capable in combat, as demonstrated during the raid of The Pit.  Her evil tendencies are later explained as being caused by The Doctor’s nanomites in her system controlling her actions.  Somehow they also turned her from a blonde into a brunette.  I wonder if they’re also responsible for her awful, cheesy attempts at one liners and snarky dialogue.

The other damsel is Scarlett, who always seems to be wearing less clothing than the other Joes, up until the final raid on the fortress, anyway.  It’s explained she graduated college at 12, holds the record on the marksman challenge, and is reading a textbook while running on the treadmill.  Ripcord immediately starts flirting with her.  She launches into an argument for how emotions, because they can’t be quantified, aren’t real.  She’s quite the peach too.

Of course, both damsels end up involved with one of the Joes by the end of the movie.  All of the women (there’s a blonde Joe corporal who gets slaughtered during the raid on The Pit) have long hair.

 

E is for… Explosions

During the ambush of the Army caravan, all three Apache helicopters get blown up.

The Army uses grenades.

The Pit gets blown up in many places while Ana and Storm Shadow try to get the warheads.

Duke has a flashback to Africa where the bunker Rex is in gets blown up.

During the chase scene in Paris, the Hummer fires many missiles/rockets into the street traffic.

The Hummer explodes when it hits the ground after being hit by the train, though the flames are clearly generated not from the Hummer but from underneath the cars next to it.

Snake Eyes, the only character with any sort of situational awareness, grabs a snowmobile and launches a rocket at the missiles carrying the warheads.  He’s able to take down one.

The Joes have “sharc” underwater craft that have missiles/rockets on them.

McCullen has a pulse cannon on his fortress that causes a lot of damage.

McCullen’s men have underwater craft that look sort of like manta rays, and one of them smashes into a wall.

The Doctor orders the ice pack above the fortress to detonate, which causes a series of explosions.

The fortress itself explodes in pieces, conveniently behind Scarlett, Snake Eyes, and Breaker as they run through the place, and conveniently in front of Duke and Ana to dramatize their escape and chase of The Doctor and McCullen.

 

F is for… Flashbacks

Upon first viewing, it felt as if half the movie was told in flashbacks.  I suppose that’s necessary, considering the sort of character building that had to be done, but again, if a phenomenon can be turned into a drinking game (take a drink when there’s a flashback), it might be overkill.

-“Four Years Earlier” Duke and Ana are celebrating, and he proposes.  We also see Ripcord and Rex.

-When Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow fight, there’s a few seconds of a flashback to the two of them fighting as kids.

-“Tokyo – Twenty Years Earlier” depicts Snake Eyes as a street urchin, eating food out of the trash.  He sneaks into a kitchen for real food, where Storm Shadow catches him and proceeds to fight him.  This fight scene is the best in the movie and one of the best I’ve seen in a while, as it harkens back to old kung fu movies with its improvisation, use of facial expressions, and real choreography not close ups.  Storm Shadow is angry when his master (Gerald Okamura) wants to take in Snake Eyes and train him to fight properly.

-Duke flashes back to “East Africa, Four Years Earlier” to a scene of warfare.  He tells Rex to go in and he’ll be in in five minutes.  The airstrike comes early and blows up the building Rex is in.  Cut to Rex’s funeral, sparsely attended, with Ana holding a folded flag.  Duke drives by on his motorcycle.  Also, it’s pouring rain.

-Storm Shadow flashes to another fight between himself and Snake Eyes as kids in Japan.  Snake Eyes gradually improves from a white belt to red to black.  He receives praise from their master, whom Storm Shadow proceeds to kill and then runs away from the scene.

-Ana gets a glimpse of her former blonde self kissing Duke.

-The Doctor flashes back to his moments as Rex in the bunker before it explodes, where he sees the nanoviper tech.  He seems enamored and downloads information from the computer.  Dr. Mindbender tells him, “If we live, I’ll show you everything.”  Rex perfected Dr. Mindbender’s research.

-Ana gets another, longer glimpse of her past self with Duke.

-Rex flashes to Ana being depressed after his perceived death and Duke leaving her, and Rex injects her with nanomites.  He explains to Duke outside the flashback, “I gave her purpose.”

 

G is for… Guns

Check out details at the IMFDB.

The Apache helicopters have guns.

The Army members have their service weapons.

The bad guys during the ambush have some sort of sonic weapons.

Scarlett uses a crossbow with a video screen.

Honestly the sword fights between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow are far more interesting than the guns.

The accelerator suits have guns attached to the arms that can fire fifty rounds a second.

McCullen’s men use their guns as clubs against Duke in the arctic.  There’s something especially entertaining about guns being used as blunt objects.

McCullen has a huge pulse cannon on his fortress that causes a lot of damage to Joe ships.

In the Presidential bunker where the President hides from the missile, his secret service agent (actually working for McCullen) shoots the other people in the room.

Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow also use throwing stars, which are more interesting than any of the guns.

Shootouts include: the opening ambush that surely takes place in the dark so less attention has to be paid to choreography, the raid on The Pit, Duke’s flashbacks to Africa, the Joes storming the fortress, and the “sharcs” versus the Cobra ships.

 

H is for… Helicopters

There are three Apache helicopters working with the transport caravan.

The bad guys in the ambush have UFO-looking aircraft.

The Joes also have futuristic aircraft.

Ana and Storm Shadow escape onto one of their craft in Paris, Duke with them (after performing an impossible leap from the roof into the sideways moving craft).

 

I is for… Improvisation

Other than the amazing Storm Shadow/Snake Eyes fight scene in the kitchen, there isn’t too much improvisation because everyone has toys.  There are tools to do everything.  Though Storm Shadow does throw spaghetti sauce into Ripcord’s face while trying to get away from him.

Snake Eyes does use his knife to disable to fortress door rather than do whatever electric tweaking Breaker was going to have him do.  Somehow it’s extremely satisfying having the guy who doesn’t talk get in the final word.

 

J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects

During the Paris chase scene, Ripcord and Duke repeatedly get flung through buildings and windows.

Noteably, Ripcord goes through the train windows in slow motion.  Then he runs through a glass partition.  Then through a window and hall of the building while chasing Storm Shadow.  This is all capped by smashing through a wall with Storm Shadow.

After firing the warhead at the Eiffel Tower, Storm Shadow crashes through a window and onto the aircraft Ana is in.

In the fortress, one of McCullen’s men gets kicked by Snake Eyes through a window and then falls into a large electrical current that vaporizes him.

Storm Shadow shoves Snake Eyes through a window.  (one has to ask why an underwater fortress has all of this glass separating its sections.)

 

K is for… Kill Count

There’re so many explosions and shootouts and so much gunfire it’s almost impossible to keep track of how many bad guys the Joes kill, but a notable moment is Ripcord impaling a guy in The Pit with a forklift.

The only named villain to die is Storm Shadow, but because his body is never shown after going under the water he may be alive.

 

L is for… Limitations

Other than the usual “the good guys split up” and “new technology is being used,” the Joes don’t have many limitations.  They have plenty of toys to get the job done, and there’s never a moment of “Are they gonna make it?!” for the viewer.  There’s no work put into making the viewer even feel sorry for any of them.  Except maybe for Ripcord, but not in a “good” way.

Duke’s former relationship with Ana may hinder him a bit.

 

M is for… Motivation

McCullen says he wants “complete control,” and to be the most powerful man on the planet.  He also wants money for research for The Doctor.  He specifically says he wants to “strike fear into the hearts of every man, woman, and child on the planet.  They’ll turn to the person with the most power.”  This is later revealed to not be him, but the President of the United States (who by the end of the film is of course one of McCullen’s men).

Destroying the Eiffel Tower is retaliation for what the French did to “clan McCullen” in 1641.

The Doctor—later Cobra Commander—seems to just want power and to play with his nanomites.

The Joes want to keep the warheads safe, then want them back when they’re stolen, then want to apprehend McCullen.

 

N is for… Negotiation

There really isn’t much negotiating going on.  Everyone knows what he wants and how to get it.  Even the President says there haven’t been any demands regarding the warheads, which means the villains that have them intend to use them.

Duke does try to negotiate with The Doctor to let Ana go or fix her, but he of course doesn’t agree to that.

 

O is for… One Liners

Duke, after Ripcord talks about wanting to be a pilot: You want to be up in the air? I’ll buy you a trampoline.

 

Ripcord: I sent in an application.

Duke: They accept those in crayon?

 

Ripcord, trying to impress Scarlett: We are tough.  But we’re also sensitive.

 

Shoutouts to the G.I. Joe cartoon/toys:

Ripcord to Heavy Duty: You have some real life-like hair, and a kung fu grip.

Ripcord: Duke wasn’t born, he was government issued.

 

Scarlett, about Snake Eyes: He doesn’t speak.

Ripcord: Why?

Breaker: He doesn’t say.

(later it’s explained his silence is because he took a vow of silence when his master was killed)

 

Scarlett: If you’re gonna shoot at something, kill it.  Otherwise take up knitting.

 

Ana: How are we gonna get out of here?

Storm Shadow: Follow me.

[He leaps over a 20-foot high railing]

Ana: Like that’s gonna happen.

 

Ripcord, about Ana: “Baroness”? She really traded up.

 

Ana: That redhead is really starting to piss me off.

 

Ripcord, on Storm Shadow: Damn, that ninja’s fast.

 

Ana, after ordering a woman to get out of her way: Nice shoes.

 

Ripcord: Dead guys don’t breakdance.

 

Ana: Everybody’s sorry about something.

 

Ripcord, after Scarlett explains the math behind finding the arctic fortress: That’s why I missed that class.

 

Ripcord, in his snowsuit in the arctic: Long way from Miami.

 

Ripcord, trying to guess the voice command to fire missiles: Fire!  Shoot!  Blast away!  Bust a cap!

 

Scarlett: Ripcord!

Ripcord: Didn’t I ask you not to yell at me?

 

Ripcord, as he lands and the secret service surrounds him: Good.  Because I think I’m about to get arrested.  Again.

 

P is for… Profession

Everyone’s profession seems a bit underdeveloped, strangely enough.  Duke and Ripcord are probably Army, explicitly described as “special ops,” the catch-all designation for “we need some military guys, but don’t need to be specific about what they do.”  Their mission is to protect the caravan of warheads, and Duke refuses to hand the suitcase over to Hawk.

Ripcord is stated to be an expert marksman, second in his battalion, a weapons specialist, and jet qualified.

Duke realizes the Joes can’t be Army because so many of them have accents.

Duke had been recruited to G.I. Joe at some point in the past.

The “Joes” are “the top men and women from the best military units in the world.  The alpha dogs.  When all else fails, we don’t.”  Hawk’s line here reads like the back of an action figure box.

 

Q is for… Quagmire

Duke gets kidnapped and brought to the North Pole.

The problem is there isn’t enough attachment to him to be too worried about him, and there’s a huge group of people equipped to get him back.  He’ll be fine.

 

R is for… Reality/Suspension of Disbelief

The entire movie requires suspension of the knowledge of current military technology, so that’s fine.

The first major problem is the fact that Ana and Storm Shadow raid The Pit using drill vehicles and no one realizes it.  Somehow The Pit has no radar, no defenses, no sensors, no cameras or internal surveillance, and no one working or walking around, so no one even knows they’re there until they get to General Hawk’s office.  Storm Shadow does kill a guy with his sword on the way there, which means that guy is either blind and deaf or has no means of radioing the attack to anyone.  General Hawk is able to sound the alarm only because Storm Shadow chooses to wound him rather than kill him.  So basically G.I. Joe has all the top experts, but can’t figure out how to defend its own compound.

From the chase scene, again:

-Scarlett’s motorcycle just doesn’t move right during the Paris chase.  It’s very distracting.

-The Hummer explodes from the outside in.

-Duke and Ripcord just hang out not doing anything while Ana and Storm Shadow get all the way to her husband’s lab.  And Snake Eyes, who wasn’t thrown or hurt, disappears instead of following them.

 

S is for… Sidekicks

The cast is basically an ensemble, even though Duke is seemingly supposed to be the main character.  The other Joes do more than he does, though.

 

T is for… Technology

Because the film takes place in the future, the advanced technology is basically a given, but I’ll mention some of it.

The MARS Industries nanomites eat anything from a single tank to an entire city, but the warheads need to be individually deactivated for them to stop.

The nanomites used by The Doctor to control people inhibit the self preservation reflex, so the men feel no pain, fear, regrets, or remorse.  The nano-ed men are called neovipers.

Ana and her crew have sonic weapons, and glasses that can be fully opaque or fully transparent.

Scarlett has a crossbow with a video screen to target bad guys better.

People communicate using lifelike holograms instead of video conferencing.

The Joes have a camouflage suit that takes pictures of whatever is behind the person wearing it and places the images in front of him

The accelerator suits make the wearer faster, stronger, jump higher, and have weaponry on them.

Storm Shadow and Ana escape The Pit with the aid of a jet pack hang glider thing that looks awesome.

Breaker has a tool to stick into dying brains to convert neural impulses to video, to record recent memories.

Scarlett, Breaker, and Snake Eyes have to traverse a hallway where the floor is pressure plated and laser detected, and nothing bigger than a quarter can touch it.  Snake Eyes defeats this technology by walking on his fingertips.

 

U is for… Unexpected Romance

One of those movies where the “unexpected” part is up to the viewer.

Ripcord flirts with Scarlett right away, even though she brushes him off.  She eventually gives in to the emotions she denies having, and even kisses Ripcord as he prepares to take McCullen’s jet.

Ana saves Duke from having nanomites injected in him, and kisses him.  At the end of the film he says he won’t give up on her, even though the nanomites can’t be removed from her body.  They kiss again.

 

V is for… Vehicles as Weapons

Ripcord uses a forklift to kill someone.

The Hummer in Paris has a cowcatcher on it, all the better to push people and other cars out of the way.

The Hummer is also scraped against other vehicles to try to dislodge Snake Eyes.

The Hummer drives into a train, which is what finally stops it.

 

W is for… Winning

All of the Joes fight with McCullen’s people, and the fortress gets infiltrated.  The arctic base is destroyed, Ana is put in recovery, and The Doctor and McCullen—now Cobra Commander and Destro—are in Joe prison.

But, considering the villains aren’t dead (the first movie I’ve reviewed in which this is the case), the President isn’t the President, and there’s a sequel, how much winning truly happened?

 

X is for… X-Rays, or Why Don’t You See a Doctor?

Everyone seems fine.  I can’t even recall anyone getting a paper cut, though surely there are some bumps and bruises.

 

Z is for… Zone, the

No one is in any sort of zone.  Everyone is an expert, and teamwork brings everything together.

 

So that’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.  It’s basically a mess, but for someone who wants something light and explodey to watch, it’s fine.  The ensemble of heroes is nice to see, too, rather than just one or two people trying to take down a villain.

There are, however, many miscellaneous points I’d like to make that bothered me throughout the film.

-The description of “In the not too distant future” seems a little strange coming after a scene that specifically takes place in 1641.  Because the “not too distant future” from 1641 could be 1651.  I know the point is to set the movie a few years into the present day’s future, but they could clarify by having the title read “The present day, plus a few years” or something like that.

-Ripcord is horribly stereotyped.  I’m not a black man, but I’m still offended that Marlon Wayans’ character is reduced to the bumbling fool who can’t get the girl (until he does) and has all the comic relief lines.  If he’s a Joe, why does he need to be the comic relief?  Nothing intelligent comes out of his mouth, and that’s a shame.

-I mentioned this in my introduction, but for a movie that relies heavily on special effects, the CGI establishing shots, notably of the desert, are absolutely terrible.  They really look like the wallpapers that come with Microsoft computers.   This also goes for that poor polar bear in the artic.  They could have found footage of an actual polar bear and superimposed it with the footage of the ship coming from underneath.  Speaking of which, if the ice is ten stories thick, how’d the ship come up from underneath it?

-I couldn’t help but wonder about Joseph Gordon-Levitt acting with the mask, and how difficult it must have been, and then if he gave any tips to Tom Hardy when they were working together on the set of The Dark Knight Rises.  I can’t remember if they had scenes together, but surely Joseph Gordon-Levitt spoke with Tom Hardy about it.  How many people have to act in a big budget action blockbuster while wearing a mask that covers the bottom part of his or her face?

-Scarlett and the blonde corporal don’t wear undershirts beneath their fatigues, yet all the men do.  Ana wears a push-up bra.  Stop sexualizing the women!

-What the heck is Brendan Frasier doing in that cameo?  Super distracting.  All I could think was, “Is that Brendan Frasier?  Why is he here?”

-Duke and Ripcord go through a series of tests in order to prove they are Joe material.  How long do those tests take?  Everything seems to take place in the same day, considering Ana hasn’t stormed The Pit yet.  But surely becoming a Joe takes longer than that!

-When the Joes (sans Snake Eyes and Duke) get arrested, Breaker speaks to the guards in English.  But his native language is French, they’re in France, and the guards are French.  Why wouldn’t he speak French?  Can’t American audiences handle six seconds of subtitles?

-The surface portion of McCullen’s arctic fortress is eerily reminiscent of both the Fortress of Solitude and Hoth.  I don’t know much about arctic architecture and engineering, but surely there’s got to be a design suitable for the arctic landscape that isn’t “huge slabs of ice at irregular angles.”

-Just wanted to point out the convenience that McCullen’s missiles travel at Mach 5, and he fortunately has jets that can travel at that speed and greater, when the Joes don’t.  And oh yeah, Ripcord happens to be an expert pilot.

-The fight scenes in the fortress are reminiscent of Star Wars, especially the Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow fight.  That place might as well be the Death Star.  I seriously expected Snake Eyes to cut off Storm Shadow’s hand (I know that was in Cloud City, but go with it).  The underwater craft having separate wingman areas were reminiscent of R2-D2 being Luke’s wingman, and while I know that’s not a new design, the whole scenario was just very Star Wars-ish.

-That fortress, that Scarlett claims was ingenious because it’s easy to defend, sure falls apart quickly/easily.  Were there no measures to ensure it was structurally sound in case of an attack?  Someone would eventually find the place!

So, hey ho, G.I. Joe.  It has some enjoyable elements, but I don’t think I’ll be reaching for the DVD any time soon, unless I want truly mindless entertainment.  With sonic guns.  Maybe faithful fans of the toys and cartoons have a higher opinion.