Review: Layered performance by Golding can’t save Snake Eyes

Andrew Koji and Henry Golding in Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins / Paramount Pictures

If you decide to see “Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins,” you might want to pop a dose of Dramamine before entering the theater for this dizzyingly shot action flick that’s meant to reset the franchise.

From watching the movie, you might think the steady-cam operator was suffering from the jitters throughout the shoot, or that possibly the movie was composed of random footage taken from a cell-phone camera that just happened to be activated by mistake. There is little rhyme or reason to the camera movement that only serves to frustrate the viewer rather than enhance this overlong venture that becomes wilder and weirder as it progresses.

To the movie’s credit, there are some nifty action set pieces featuring ninja-fighting that one would expect from an origin story about a ninja commando, but too much of the action is ruined with shaky effects that I can only guess were employed to cover up the poor shooting eye of director Robert Schwentke and technique of cinematographer Bojan Bazelli.

Borrowing fairly heavily from the Batman comic-book mythos, the movie seeks to explain how a vendetta leads Snake Eyes (Henry Golding) to become a member of the G.I. Joe paramilitary organization. Golding and Andrew Koji, who plays Tommy Arashikage/Storm Shadow, are actually pretty good in the film, bringing some heft to the nonsense.

They come across each other’s paths as Snake Eyes attempts to weasel his way into Tommy’s good graces in order to steal a crimson-colored jewel that allows its possesser the power to instantly fry his opponents with some sort of ancient Asian hoodoo. By turning the the jewel over to Kenta (Takehiro Hiraganas), Snake Eyes will gain access to the Cobra agent who killed his father.

Úrsula Corberó and Samara Weaving in Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins / Paramount Pictures

Kenta, of course, plans to use the jewel to destroy Clan Arashikage, who threw him out years ago based on his dishonorable actions. The resulting battle shows both Snake Eyes and Tommy having changes of heart that leaves one ingratiated to the clan and one on the outs. This is somewhat interesting as the more noble character loses his position in the clan, while the lying interloper is rewarded by being asked to join the G.I. Joes after he basically destroys a family’s heritage.

The movie features Ursula Corbero as the Baroness as a secondary villain, and Samara Weaving plays G.I. Joe agent Scarlett, who arrives just in time to take part in the climactic battle. Both serve as eye candy rather than characters integral to the plot.

While the shaky-cam footage bothered me, I did enjoy some of the action. Golding and Koij’s performances are better than the movie deserves. Haruka Abe, however, gives the best performance as Akkio, Tommy’s right-hand woman, who develops a fondness for Snake Eyes.

Overall, though, the movie is just a mess that will likely infuriate ardent G.I Joe fans and leave others confused and bored.

(PG-13) 2 hr. 1 min.
Grade: C-

New in Local Theaters

Old (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 1 hr. 48 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Rogers Towne, Skylight

Joe Bell (watch trailer) / (R) 1 hr. 30 min / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle

Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 2 hr. 1 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Rogers Towne, Skylight

Classic Corner – Blood Simple

Frances McDormand in Blood Simple / River Road Productions

“Blood Simple” is where the directing careers for the Coen Brothers began, and it was an auspicious start for the brother directing duo. “Blood Simple” is anything but simple. It’s a classic neo-noir crime film that’s gritty, taut and surprising in the best of ways.

The movie is also the feature debut of Francis McDormand, who has had a wonderful career working with Joel, her husband, and Ethan Coen as well as with other directors.

McDormand had the “it” quality from the beginning, and she shines as Abby, who is having a tryst with a Ray (John Getz), a bartender at her husband Julian Marty’s bar.

The film opens with Ray and Abby driving through a downpour before stopping at a roadside motel, where their liaison is photographed by Loren Visser (M. Emmett Walsh). Visser shows the photos to Julian (Dan Heydaya). After a botched attempt to kidnap Abby from Ray’s home, Julian goes back to Visser to hire him to kill Abby and Ray.

From there, the movie spirals almost into horror territory that unravels a number of twists and shocking surprises that culminates with a distraught showdown between Abby and Visser.

The film itself is a strong debut by the Coens and McDormand that only foreshadows so many great movies and parts for the trio.

While not necessarily in subject matter, the film reminds me a bit of the change of pace director Alfred Hitchcock served up in “Psycho.” The move keeps you engaged because unlike most films you don’t have a roadmap where it’s going. That uncertainty makes the film all the more engaging.

“Blood Simple” plays on TBS at 7 p.m. Friday.