Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

Written by Alexander Reams

27/100

When I think back to my childhood there are certain events I remember, and yes most of them revolve around films. I remember seeing G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra with my father and seeing the character that would become one of my all time favorites, Snake Eyes. The following Halloween and Christmas I had something Snake Eyes related for the holiday. So upon hearing that a film revolving around the titular character was in development my excitement went through the roof. Then when I heard the casting for Snake Eyes I got a tad skeptical, Snake Eyes is such a cool character that is based in his silence and letting his fight skills do the talking for him. Casting someone like Henry Golding would most likely mean that Snake Eyes would not be taking that vow of silence. And just as expected Snake Eyes having dialogue in the film turns it from mediocre to awful. 

The film feels like an ill equipped first time director is at the helm, however once the credits roll, so did my eyes. The plot, as one would expect, is simple. Golding’s Snake Eyes rescues his future nemesis, “Tommy/ Storm Shadow” from the Yakuza and in return, Snake Eyes travels with Tommy to be trained in the ninja ways of the clan Tommy is from. Completing the origin story of the legend that Snake Eyes would become. Robert Schwentke, the same man who single-handedly killed the Divergent franchise, made Ryan Reynolds boring in R.I.P.D., and Helen Mirren unlikable in RED, is running the show. It clearly suffers from his direction, choosing quick edits and shaky camerawork over long, clean, takes and smooth Steadicam work. The style he equipped for shooting these scenes, egregiously stands out during a sequence at the docks. The amount of quick cuts made is nauseating. This made the film borderline unwatchable for me and actively frustrated me throughout. This combined with the comedically terrible script makes the technical side of the film insurmountable at best.

Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, and Samara Weaving do the best they can with what they are given. That being said, there is still a lot to be desired from Golding’s performance. Stepping into a role that was made iconic by Ray Park (Darth Maul in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace) already put pressure on him to succeed. Physically, Golding commits himself to the role, clearly showing his ability to do stunt work, but in the quieter scenes he is not given near enough for an actor of his talent. Koji tries his best to keep up, but borders on becoming a comically bad, unfortunately stereotypical, Japanese character. Samara Weaving’s role is small, but her performance was as good as Golding’s. I am definitely looking forward to seeing more of her in the G.I. Joe universe. This film is clearly made by an outsider to this culture who tried to Americanize the film when instead it should have been made to honor the culture it so poorly apes. It’s not only technically bad, but disappointing for the G.I. Joe fans everywhere and I hope they will redirect the course with new screenwriters and directors.

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins Trailer

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is currently available on VOD.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Free Guy

Written by Anna Harrison

75/100

Late July, the frozen steak brand Steak-umm posted a lengthy Twitter thread, replete with steak puns galore, on “societal distrust in experts and institutions, the rise of misinformation, cultural polarization, and how to work toward some semblance of mutually agreed upon information before we splinter into irreconcilable realities.” A frozen thin-sliced steak brand then proceeded to elaborate on our current societal fracturing, making some pretty reasonable points in the process—it was remarkable and remarkably absurd. Yet this is where we are today—brands and corporations on Twitter (most of them much larger than Steak-umm) acting like people, using Twitter to wield millennial and Gen Z jargon as a marketing weapon. It can be funny, it can be thought-provoking, it can be really weird to see Netflix tweet about Nightcrawler’s critique of capitalism while it leeches people away from independent movie theaters. 

Free Guy, 20th Century Studios’ latest release (20th Century Studios sounds so naked without “Fox,” doesn’t it?), is all about critiquing unchecked corporate power, pushing for original ideas amidst a sea of sequels and remakes, and sticking it to the man even as it was distributed by a subsidiary of Disney, whose success almost single-handedly relies on fondness for IPs such as Marvel and Star Wars, IPs which have the cinematic world in a chokehold. Even as Free Guy lampoons its creators, it relies on those Disney brands for humor and cultural relevance (just look at its marketing).

But as long as you don’t think too much about it, Free Guy is a whole lot of fun. (Plus, the cameos and musical cues the Disney/Fox merger allowed the film to have are admittedly pretty damn funny.)

Free Guy’s titular hero, played by Ryan Reynolds with his usual charm, is a bit unusual: he’s an NPC (non-playable character) in Grand Theft Auto and Fortnite’s spiritual child, Free City. He goes through the day, hitting the same beats over and over again with his friend Buddy (Lil Rey Howery). He gets up, goes to work as a bank teller, suffers through the havoc that the playable characters wreak on his world, and goes to bed. His routine, however, changes when he spies playable character MolotovGirl (Jodie Comer), who awakens something in Guy that prompts him to break out of his programmed life.

MolotovGirl takes a great interest in Guy because, as it turns out, she created him. (There could be some Freudian analysis done here about how MolotovGirl is Guy’s creator/mother, but also his love interest… just saying.) Behind the computer screen, MolotovGirl goes by Millie, and she and Walter, aka Keys (Joe Keery), had once made an indie game called Free Life back in school, which had NPCs that would grow and evolve, like artificial intelligence, rather than simply go through the motions; the two had sold the game to Soonami Games, but its head, Antwan (Taika Waititi), shelved it and secretly used the code to build Free City. Millie, looking for proof to use against Antwan in her lawsuit, realizes that Guy could be the key.

Director Shawn Levy deftly balances the game and real worlds, seamlessly switching between the two and managing to entwine them organically, and he brings out good performances from all his cast members, proving again that Jodie Comer should be (and will be) a star, and giving hope that maybe Steve Harrington can have some luck with girls after all. (Joe Keery’s hair, by the way, does actually just look like that in real life, as I discovered when I spied him at brunch several years ago.) Waititi’s Antwan is perhaps better suited to be a zany NPC than a smarmy gaming developer, but he has his moments, too; everyone, at some point or another, gets a big belly laugh—or at least a hearty chuckle—from the audience, but underneath is a charming, heartfelt message on the power of creativity and the triumph that comes with not selling your soul to follow the money.

Yeah, it’s a bit of a weird throughline, considering who made the film; it’s hard to praise this as an original blockbuster when it relies so heavily on cultural knowledge of other things, but sometimes you just want to have fun, and Free Guy certainly delivers a sweet dose of it. There are weird video game weapons, Channing Tatum busting out some Fortnite inspired moves, a jacked version of Guy called “Dude” who goes around yelling, “CATCHPHRASE!,” and Taika Waititi acting absolutely out of his mind. It’s not going to win any Oscars, but it did more than enough to win me over.

Free Guy Trailer

You can follow more of Anna’s work on LetterboxdTwitterInstagram, and her website.

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

Written by Alexander Reams

63/100

During the summer of 2017, audiences were inundated with a plethora of mindless films (remember Transformers: The Last Knight). Then came along the dog days of summer where it seemed that nothing worth watching was out. Until a film with Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson hit theaters and gave a jolt of life to the summer movie season. The reason that the first film hit so well is that audiences were hungry for a good movie, The Hitman’s Bodyguard was a fun buddy/road movie that had better action and better humor than anyone could have predicted.  After nearly 4 years of waiting, this duo is back on screen together joined by Salma Hayek. 

The newest entry in this franchise also bringing in Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman, and Frank Grillo. While all of these actors together make sense and it’s pleasant to see them in a film together working off each other, you really stay for the comedic trio of Jackson, Reynolds, and Hayek. Bringing in Hayek to the main cast creates a whole new dynamic that I didn’t expect out of this franchise. Of course the big question in the film is “Who is Morgan Freeman playing?” and while I will not give anything away, I will say it was well worth the wait to see his role in the film. 

Despite the pleasant banter and character interplay that is built up throughout the film, it stumbles in its scripting and visual effects. The film constantly falls into cliche after cliche to a point where I was thinking the words that were about to be said and sure enough, I was right. The visual effects are half baked and rear their ugly head a lot in the third act. The action scenes, particularly one in a nightclub, are very well choreographed and filmed. The main reason to watch Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is for the 3 stars together on screen transitioning to a new dynamic from the first film. From buddy road movie to family road movie, yes at the heart of the film it is a family movie. If you enjoyed the mindless action and fun of the first film I have no doubt you would enjoy this entry as well.

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard Trailer

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard opens theatrically on June 16th.