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film review

Henry Golding plays Snake Eyes and Samara Weaving plays Scarlett in Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins from Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Skydance.Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise/Paramount Pictures

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Snake Eyes

Directed by Robert Schwentke

Written by Evan Spiliotopoulos, Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse

Starring Henry Golding, Andrew Koji and Iko Uwais

Classification PG; 121 minutes

Opens July 23 in theatres across Canada

The movies are back, Canada! And so, too, is big-budget Hollywood franchise garbage.

I don’t mean the kind of mindless-but-diverting garbage that makes for a decent low-stakes afternoon matinee. I’m talking about through-and-through irredeemable trash. The kind of disposable, lazy, head-slapping work that makes you wonder what the whole fuss of movie-going was about in the first place.

This is, ultimately, what Snake Eyes represents. I suppose that there are enough hard core G.I. Joe devotees out there demanding that a third movie in the based-on-toys series be brought into this world – eight long years after the entirely forgettable G.I. Joe: Retaliation was released. But even they don’t deserve this crass attempt at exploiting the teensy tiniest brain cell of intellectual property imaginable. Watching Snake Eyes (full title: Snake Eyes – G.I. Joe Origins) is not a physically painful ordeal. But it is an emotionally harmful one – a soul-deadening exercise that approximates satire, minus the self-awareness.

Revealing the hidden history of everyone’s (someone’s?) favourite G.I. Joe hero, Snake Eyes runs through a slow-chug of an origin story. Turns out that the ultra-skilled and super-mysterious Snake Eyes was once just a low-level yakuza enforcer (played by Henry Golding) who gets wrapped up in an extraordinarily uninteresting feud between two warring Japanese clans. Think of it as the poor man’s Tokyo Drift of the G.I. Joe franchise, except if this series makes it to instalment No. 9 à la Fast & Furious, I’ll happily jump off Mount Fuji to my bloody death.

There are training montages, back-alley attacks, and highway chases – all choreographed, shot, and edited so choppily that you are better served closing your eyes, like Snake Eyes’ aptly named fighting guru, Blind Master (Peter Mensah), and simply listening to the sounds of swords clashing and gunshots echoing.

Akin to this spring’s similarly embarrassing Cruella, Snake Eyes is determined to offer entirely unnecessary background information. We find out, for instance, the unintentionally hilarious reason why people call our hero “Snake Eyes,” as well as why he felt the need to sign up with the G.I. commando force. This last part is aided by bit appearances from G.I. Joe fan-favourites, recast from previous movies because Sienna Miller has better things to do these days.

But really Snake Eyes is just a D-level Samurai adventure with flecks of brand awareness peppered throughout, the better to distract us from the fact that no one is trying all that hard. This regrettably includes Golding, who exudes none of the charm found in Crazy Rich Asians, A Simple Favor and The Gentlemen.

Wait, I take that back: someone is trying here. Indonesian martial-arts phenomenon Iko Uwais, cast as Blind Master’s counterpart named, um, Hard Master, fights against all of director Robert Schwentke’s worst instincts at every possible opportunity. But aside from a few seconds of Uwais kicking minor butt during the film’s final attack sequence, the world’s most skilled action star is utterly wasted. Which is a crime far worse than anything that G.I. foes Cobra could hope to pull off. Say it ain’t so, Joe.

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.