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Matthew Razak avatar 4:45 PM on 08.10.2009
Monday Review: G.I. Joe


Go Joe?

As a film critic I was pretty sure that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was going to be the worst film of the summer, but one must do what one must do. I thus headed into the theater and firmly shoved the film critic inside me out of the way, prepared to accept whatever was thrown my way. What was thrown my way was probably the best summer action film of the year (if we consider Star Trek too early for summer and District 9 too late). I know you're a bit surprised, but don't run away yet. Let me explain myself.

First off being the best summer action film this year is kind of like being the best pile of garbage; sure you won, but you're still a pile of garbage. Secondly, unlike much of the rest of the summer blockbuster fare for the year , G.I. Joe doesn't pretend to be anything but a pile of action garbage, and works with that fact very well. Good movie? No, but when you've been assailed with so much blockbuster crap all summer, mediocrity starts to shine.

The story of G.I. Joe sticks pretty close to the Hasbro action figure-based cartoon. An elite force of soldiers takes on a world dominating organization and they shoot at each other and spew some life lessons. There's a bit of romance thrown in, a bunch of wise cracking and some ninja action. Here's the beauty of Joe though, it never overreaches. It's content to be about good guys shooting at bad guys for two hours, and for that it works.

The film charges headfirst through non-stop action sequences. When dialog does rear its ugly head its kept to about five minutes -- just long enough to let you breathe, appreciate the cleavage and Channing Tatum's abs, and then throw you back into some over-the-top escapades of the Joes. Unlike Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, G.I. Joe is paced how a stupid summer action movie should be paced, and that's with little to no stops between fights and explosions. If someone is having a conversation during G.I. Joe you can sure as hell be bet that they are either about to blow something up or blowing something up while they're talking.

And those explosions are solid. There's not much that you haven't seen before -- though a foot chase in Paris using some cybernetic suit things is pretty cool -- but it's so non-stop that you don't really have time to care about it. The action is handled with the kind of stupid simplicity that makes action work. Director Stephen Sommers aptly avoids doing anything special, and amazingly does something incredibly special since most action directors these days can't seem to keep from butchering their own overblown sequences. I'm not sure if I should be complimenting a director who seems to have taken "Action Cinema 101" and run with it, but then again, if this summer's action movies are any sign maybe Hollywood needs a little refresher.

In short G.I. Joe is far from great, but it's the best way to spend some money on a summer matinee we've had all summer. Joe pretends to be absolutely nothing more than it is, and that makes it immensely enjoyable even if offers up nothing but mindless action. Anyway, if you don't like this one there's always a chance you'll like the next one. I don't think I've seen an untested film franchise be set up for a sequel so hard in my entire life.

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