Snake Eyes Review

While Saturday morning cartoon action shows are long gone, G.I. Joe still, somehow, marches on. Some contingency to keep this series alive has spawned from a generation wanting to see a big-screen bust-up of all their favourite characters. Snake Eyes, the eponymous character, is recognisable not just because of his lack of unique features but because his name is the simplest of all. While director Robert Schwentke does not rely on that, he may as well have. What else is there on offer in this spin-off of the forgotten series that never took flight? Its casualties were endless, yet Channing Tatum emerged unscathed from the disastrously odd G.I. Joe adaptation. At least that feature was a relic of pre-2010s culture and a nostalgia package for the future. Snake Eyes is the safe nothingness of the current action genre.

That disparity between the tongue-in-cheek late-night viewings of G.I. Joe and Snake Eyes becomes immediately apparent. While Henry Golding is a solid draw and a rising star, his role as the titular character feels wasted and unwarranted. He is given little to do and his character is given even less to care for. A backstory to the mysterious, shrouded figure from the first feature is changed and remade. Necessary, but still useless. There is only so much tension an audience can be expected to sit through as the darkened corridors are navigated, the stressed and fear-instilled characters making their way towards inevitable death. At least they’re strengthening the narrative, or at least trying to anyway. Schwentke deals with the Yakuza and the big gun-running triumphs of international terrorists, but without the gusto or variety to make it work.

Those same issues are found in the action that tries to tie it all together. Snake Eyes proves exceptionally underwhelming. It has moments of tension, the rebellious leading man who fights for what he thinks is right yet battles against a troubled conscience. All of it comes together not because there is interest in seeing where the story goes, but because it is the only direction to take. What else is there to do? Even the action is uninteresting. Cut after cut, and not too much in the foreground. A shame since the stuntmen that surround Golding and his surge into the action genre is quite talented. They offer the kicks, flips and knockout blows all solid action features have, just not often enough. Those that do cut through jump the shark, as a man splits handcuffs in half by leaping in the air and spreading his arms.

Rolling a snake eyes is the worst possible outcome. It proves rather apt for Snake Eyes. Never quite reaching the popcorn flick tier it was aiming for, the feature is not a good look for the G.I. Joe franchise and whatever it wishes to represent. Audiences will remain unmoved and unconvinced by this glossy action flick, capitalising on the popularity of a brief series of films that died out well over a decade ago. What could have been mediocre is simply bad and unambitious. A handful of solid moments, but when the characters are this lacklustre, it is hard to care for their actions, reactions and inactions to the generic tale of a hero taking down those that mean his loved one’s harm.

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