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Review: Henry Golding struggles to bring 'Snake Eyes' to life

"Crazy Rich Asians" star is stiff in story of the popular G.I. Joe character.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

That action figure you played with as a kid is not just an action figure, it's intellectual property. And that intellectual property has a backstory. Are you ready to hear it? 

"Snake Eyes" tells the story of G.I. Joe's stealthy black-clad ninja character, one of the coolest looking characters in the G.I. Joe line. It has the expanded title of "Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins," implying there will be more G.I. Joe origins stories. Hopefully those future installments will be less dull than this flat action-adventure, which takes its hugely charismatic star and renders him all but plastic. 

Henry Golding in "Snake Eyes."

That star is "Crazy Rich Asians" leading man Henry Golding, who plays the title character, a loner on a quest to find those responsible for the murder of his father. That journey of course leads him to underground fight clubs (doesn't it always these days?), where he's recruited by Kenta, a mysterious figure who sends Snake Eyes to infiltrate the Arashikage, a ninja clan that cast him out. Do his bidding, and Kenta will lead Snake Eyes to his father's murderer. 

Mr. Eyes makes his way to Tokyo and learns the way of the Arashikage, studying with Tommy Arashikage (Andrew Koji), among others. The double agent role has Golding playing shades of gray, although the script by Evan Spiliotopoulos, Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse doesn't give him a whole lot of character to play with. Golding winds up spending a lot of his time standing around, stiffly. 

There are G.I. Joe matters at hand, so a few familiar characters pop up, including Scarlett (Samara Weaving) and Baroness (Úrsula Corberó), to break up the monotony. But director Robert Schwentke ("Flightplan," "The Time Traveler's Wife") can't pull "Snake Eyes" out of its storytelling doldrums, and the action scenes don't crackle or otherwise raise the film's pulse. This one belongs back in the toy box.


'Snake Eyes'


Rated PG-13: for sequences of strong violence and brief strong language

Running time: 121 minutes

In theaters