Snake eyes

★★ ½

Snake Eyes is an action / adventure origin film for the title character Snake Eyes, which is part of the GI Joe franchise. When a young boy takes revenge on his father’s killers, he enters a life of violent training and bloodshed. Discovered and trained by ninjas, he acquires the deadly skills of taking on every human on earth – but his passion project for revenge still bubbles to the surface.

As a young boy, Snake Eyes (Henry Golding) witnesses his father being killed by a group of thugs. A crushed man, he grows up with fighting spirit and becomes a professional underground warrior who harms people for money. But Kenta (Takehiro Hira), a man who sees the potential in him, offers to tell him who killed his father so he can take revenge. But there is a catch: Snake Eyes must first perform a few tasks. As he crosses paths that save the life of a fellow fighter, Tommy (Andrew Koji), Snake Eyes is recognized for his unique abilities and led to the top-secret Arashikage clan, which is a group of incredibly powerful Japanese ninjas. Despite the mistrust of insider Akiko (Haruko Abe), Snake Eyes quickly rises in a row with Tommy, who is queuing up to be the heir to the entire clan. But something is wrong when Kenta reveals a friend named Baroness (Úrsula Corberó) who is part of a Cobra, a worldwide top secret society of villains. Will Snake Eyes betray the Arashikage clan to learn who his father’s killer was so he can take revenge? Or will he remain true to his friendship with Tommy?

Directed by Robert Schwentke (Allegiant, RED), there is an overall very serious tone to Snake Eyes, which is an interesting choice, as the film could easily have been full campy comedy and still worked. Fortunately, the leading characters are talented enough to take advantage of the rare ability of any action movie that draws compassion. However, another interesting choice was to suddenly switch the film halfway through from a simple, character-driven origin story about Snake Eyes and Tommy to GI Joe’s immersive world. Originally based on a sneaky, quiet ninja character known to always be quiet and never take off his mask, the Snake Eyes movie breaks from tradition in every respect and goes back in time to before Snake Eyes’ accident, so his face can be seen all the time and get him talking through history. Granted, it’s challenging to have a protagonist who is neither seen nor heard, but with the emotional impact of this iteration, it may have created a more interesting film. In addition, the coolness of a ninja character dating back to the 1960s steps on cultural endowment in modern times.

To go in with the understanding that the film is about an American, motorcycle-riding, leather-clad ninja who consistently brings swords when choosing to a modern battlefield where people use weapons, the bar should be set low enough to enjoy the action, of which there eventually is plenty of. A fierce frolic across beautiful sets of pieces, Snake Eyes tries no harder than it needs and offers a quick one-two punch in the face as a substitute for meaningful character development. Despite the shortcomings, the strength of the actors and an attempt at an origin story are enough to make it a competitor to the best GI Joe movie in the series.

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