Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins Movie Review
The degree to which you enjoy the new G.I. Joe spinoff Snake Eyes depends wholly on your willingness to not think too hard about the details. A notable improvement over past G.I. Joe films (a low bar for sure), Snake Eyes is a serious and semi-gritty action film that is more entertaining than not, even with some confusing character decisions that likely made more sense in the director’s head than what is shown on screen.
Snake Eyes stars the extremely good-looking Henry Golding as the title character, an angry cage fighter who is recruited by an arms dealer in exchange for information about the man who murdered his father decades earlier. Snake Eyes then joins a Japanese clan I assumed was a criminal syndicate at first, though it’s never properly explained who exactly they are.
The motivations of the various characters, and the reasons they do the things they do, are somewhat obfuscated, and you’ll scratch your head at times as to why certain things are happening, why Snake Eyes continues to be forgiven (let alone trusted) despite his multiple betrayals, or why the clan’s inept head of security keeps her job in the face of countless poor decisions.
The screenplay is the most frustrating part of the movie. Scene by scene the film is written well enough, but details appear to have been left on the cutting room floor that would have helped clarify certain elements of the story. Snake Eyes inevitably would have benefited from a more straightforward plot, though the plot, with its shifting alliances and mix of groundedness and mysticism, is arguably less the issue than its execution.
Confusing elements aside (which I would take any day over the stupid elements of the previous G.I. Joe movies), Snake Eyes is an effective action movie. With several well-staged action sequences that vary in tone and style, the movie may not go down as a top-tier thriller but its steady delivery of mid-grade spectacle should satiate fans. The third act is especially fun to watch, even as the movie takes on a surprisingly supernatural bent.
Golding is a great fit for the role, while Andrew Koji does a fine job as conflicted Tommy. The women in the movie fare less well, as Haruka Abe is stuck playing the aforementioned inept head of security and Samara Weaving, as the badass Joe protagonist Scarlett, isn’t given enough to do. Ursula Corbero, too, is underutilized, but makes a splash as Baroness.
Snake Eyes is far from perfect, but at its core it is a well made, fast-paced film that largely seems to be aware of and adapts to its limitations. For G.I. Joe fans, and even for others (such as me), there is plenty to like here.
*It should be noted that my brother served as a creative executive on this film; however, I feel this review is an accurate reflection on my sentiments, personal connections notwithstanding.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.