[Screen It]


(2021) (Henry Golding, Andrew Koji) (PG-13)

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Action: A street fighter trains to become a ninja warrior while getting tangled up in a Japanese clan's family feud.

Having witnessed, as a young boy, his father murdered, Snake Eyes (HENRY GOLDING) has long wanted to avenge that death, and takes out his aggression as a street fighter. His prowess at doing so has drawn the intention of Kenta (TAKEHIRO HIRA) who wants Snake Eyes to work for him in exchange for finding and delivering his father's killer to him.

Snake Eyes agrees, but when Kinta wants him to kill Tommy (ANDREW KOJI), he instead saves the man and thus draws the wrath of Kinta, barely escaping with his life. It's then that he learns that Tommy is next in line to lead an ancient Japanese clan known as the Arashikage, currently headed by Tommy's grandmother, Sen (ERI ISHIDA) and he wants Snake Eyes to be his right-hand warrior. That doesn't sit well with the clan's chief of security, Akiko (HARUKA ABE), but Sen will allow it if Snake Eyes can pass a series of tests -- conducted by Blind Master (PETER MENSAH) and Hard Master (IKO UWAIS) -- to become a trusted ninja.

But at the same time, he continues working for Kinta who was previously kicked out of the Arashikage, and now wants to get his hands on a supernatural jewel with incredible powers. As does Baroness (ÚRSULA CORBERÓ) who works for the terrorist organization known as Cobra, with her presence drawing the attention of G.I. Joe team member Scarlett (SAMARA WEAVING). Torn by his dual allegiance, but still fueled by his desire to avenge his father, Snake Eyes must decide what to do.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10

Aside from occasionally playing the lottery and assuming I can arrive somewhere on time while driving through D.C. area traffic, I'm not much of a gambler. Sure, I've been in casinos and dropped some coins into one-armed bandits, but I've never plunked down any money on any sort of live table game.

Accordingly, I'm not an expert on all the rules or strategies, or why certain games or elements thereof got their names. For instance, why is "craps" called that? Is it from repeatedly losing and saying the singular version of the word too many times? And why "snake eyes" for a roll of single dots on the dice?

Perhaps it's because bad luck can and usually will lunge out and bite you, but in terms of animals, most of those with sharp teeth designed for attacking have round eyes. You know, like the Quint character said about sharks in "Jaws" -- "The thing about a shark, it's got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eyes."

That said, "Doll Eyes" doesn't sound as bad, although it would have worked for the latest spin-off of the G.I. Joe cinematic universe, "Snake Eyes" (also known as "Snake Eyes: A G.I. Joe Origins Story" if you want to get wordy). It's named after the character of the same name who -- according to the script by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Joe Shrapnel & Anna Waterhouse -- goes by that moniker after witnessing his father die at the hands of a villain who decides the man's fate with the roll of the dice.

Now all grown up (and appearing in the form of Henry Goulding, best known as the romantic lead in "Crazy Rich Asians"), Mr. Eyes is a street fighter who longs to avenge his father's death. Thus, when a criminal known as Kenta (Takehiro Hira) gives him an offer he can't refuse -- work for me and I'll deliver your father's killer -- SE signs up.

Yet, when he can't execute another man (Andrew Koji) under orders and instead saves him, he finds himself thrust into a literal and figurative foreign world. Namely that of the Arashikage, an ancient Japanese clan of which Tommy is the heir apparent. And with a beef to pick with the criminal who just so happens to be his kicked-out-of-the-family cousin, he wants Snake Eyes to become his number one ninja warrior.

That doesn't sit well with the clan's head of security (Haruka Abe), while those who will test the newcomer (Iko Uwais and Peter Mensah) question whether he has what it takes to become one of them, even if their final test would seem to be right up his alley considering his name.

And their unease and suspicion stem from them sensing something off with Snake Eyes and we soon learn why -- he's still working for Kenta who wants him to deliver a supernaturally powered jewel that the Arashikageans are protecting. Oh, and that villain is working with an uber-villain named Baroness (Ursula Corbero) whose presence draws in G.I. Joe team member Scarlett (alas, not of the Black Widow Johansson tribe).

That's a lot of characters and plot for what's essentially a ninja action flick -- perhaps that's why it's unnecessarily long at two hours. I guess fans of the Joe universe will enjoy the offering and there's plenty of sword fighting and such for those who dig such material. Not vested in any shape or form with all things Joe, the flick simply didn't work for me as a standalone offering.

Goulding occasionally seems miscast for the character, at least as it's two-dimensionally written, which is perhaps why I kept imagining what it might have been like had he played it more like James Bond, a vibe I couldn't shake. Koji and Abe are good in their supporting roles, but those playing the villains are instantly forgettable.

As is the overall film. If you're the gambling type, you might throw down your money in hopes of being entertained. But if you're not a Joe devotee, you might just roll some doll eyes. "Snake Eyes" rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed July 21, 2021 / Posted July 23, 2021

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