This film’s clunky full title, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, ties it to a franchise you’ve probably forgotten. The good news: there’s no need to revisit the two previous instalments, 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra and 2013’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation, before watching this origin story/reboot. The bad news: despite working reasonably well in places as a loyalty-driven martial arts movie, Snake Eyes won’t leave you clamouring for more.
In a clunky pre-title sequence, we see a young boy witness his father’s final minutes. After they’re ambushed at their remote log cabin, a thuggish assassin hands the boy’s father a pair of weighted dice. When they inevitably land on double ones, or “snake eyes”, his fate is sealed. Director Robert Schwentke (Red, two of the Divergent movies) then fast-forwards to the present-day where the boy is all grown-up and making his living as a sketchy martial arts fighter called Snake Eyes. Now played by Henry Golding, he’s recruited by vengeful crime lord Kenta (Takehiro Hira) to act as his highly skilled inside man. If Snake Eyes can infiltrate the powerful Arashikage clan at their Tokyo HQ, from which Kenta was banished by his imperious grandmother Sen (Eri Ishida), he’ll be handed the man who murdered his father.
Kenta’s estranged cousin Tommy (Andrew Koji), who’s still a key member of the clan, takes Snake Eyes under his wing because he believes he saved his life during a family grudge match. However, Snake Eyes’ chances of fooling the clan’s senior members are threatened by its shrewd head of security Akiko (Haruka Abe), who seems ready to rumble him. Golding is great at conveying Snake Eyes’ single-mindedness – his sole objective is avenging his father’s untimely death – but less natural in Schwentke’s frantic action sequences. The formidable Hard Master, played by martial arts movie veteran Iko Uwais (The Raid), makes a far more convincing fighter. Samara Weaving gives a game performance as Scarlett, a G.I. Joe mainstay who pops up later on, but she’s let down by deadweight dialogue that detracts from her swagger. In all honesty, Marvel has very little to worry about here.
Still, Snake Eyes is speckled with excitement even when some pretty ropey CGI proves distracting. It’s a shame the high-stakes climax is drained of tension by a painfully obvious plot development that sets up a potential sequel with witless efficiency. There are glimmers of potential here, but no one will be too disappointed if the next GI: Joe movie doesn’t arrive for another eight years. Somewhat ironically given its title, this film does enough to justify double ones – or two stars.
- Director: Robert Schwentke
- Starring: Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Haruka Abe
- Release date: August 18 (UK cinemas)