Wednesday, August 7, 2013

R.I.P.D.

For F*** Magazine

R.I.P.D.

Director: Robert Schwentke
Cast:  Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker, James Hong, Marisa Miller
Genre: Action, Fantasy
Run Time: 96 mins
Opens: 8 August 2013
Rating: PG13 (Some Coarse Language And Violence)

Danny Boyle’s A Life Less Ordinary featured angels in the form of heavenly policemen assigned to help the inhabitants of our earthly plane find love. In this film, based on Peter Lenkov’s graphic novel Rest In Peace Department, “heavenly policemen” are supernatural S.W.A.T officers instead of cupids – their job is dealing with defiant souls who escape judgment to continue walking the earth, up to no good.

Our protagonist, Ryan Reynolds’ Boston police officer Nick Walker, dies. This is not a spoiler; it’s what sets things in motion. Walker is offered a position in the department of the title by the no-nonsense Proctor (Parker), which he accepts in the hope of being reunited with his bereaved wife Julia (Stephanie Szostak). He’s teamed up with Roy Pulsipher (Bridges), a surly older gentleman and R.I.P.D. veteran. Make that much older – dude used to be a U.S. Marshal in the Old West. Together, they have to bring down crooked cop Bobby Hayes (Bacon), Nick’s former partner. They’ve also got to thwart a plot to open up a portal that will unleash hordes of souls on the earth, bringing about the end of the world.



Anyone who’s heard of this film probably could’ve smelled the familiar waft of pure formula from a mile away. One look at the poster and the trailer might have one overcome with a sense of déjà vu – which is justified because everything this movie does has been done to, well, death. Comparisons have been made ad nauseum to those mysterious government agents in the black tuxedoes and the firehouse-dwelling, Ecto-1-driving spirit exterminators, so there’s no need to belabour the point. It has also been pointed out that the premise seems very reminiscent of the cult TV show Good vs. Evil, in which a secret agency operating out of heaven battles demons from hell, right down to the agents appearing differently to others.

That brings us to probably the most entertaining aspect of the film: when operating on earth as R.I.P.D. agents, Nick takes on the appearance of an elderly Chinese man named Jerry Chen (Hong), while Roy is in the guise of the glamourous and buxom Opal Pavlenko (Miller). These avatars were obviously meant as an exercise in contrast, Hong and Miller hilariously mismatched, and the resulting sight gags do manage to be amusing.



Ryan Reynolds can’t quite seem to catch a break, pigeon-holed as a comic actor who has unsuccessfully tried to become a mainstream movie star. He’s okay as the protagonist thrust into a world he was hitherto oblivious to, but can’t quite do anything special with the material. Jeff Bridges gleefully chews the scenery with his over-the-top cowboy drawl and anachronistic slang and hamming it up is better than phoning it in, but even then he can’t save this, despite his resemblance to Roy in the comics. Unfortunately, the two don’t quite generate adequate chemistry to keep the movie running on anything more than fumes.

The trailers don’t showcase Kevin Bacon, who plays the main antagonist, but even in something as middling as this, he’s relatively entertaining. Bobby isn’t a particularly scary villain and this isn’t the best use of his talent by far but, like Bridges, he does what he can. It’s just that his smarmy, insidious dirty cop doesn’t seem like the kind of force of evil who would figure in a larger than life supernatural action-comedy romp. Mary-Louise Parker’s comically po-faced boss lady is also an often-seen stock character, and she is better playing characters like the peppy girlfriend in the RED movies.

Speaking of RED, the director of the first film, Robert Schwentke, is in charge. He made RED a surprisingly entertaining, warm and action-packed film but cannot bring the same magic to R.I.P.D., in spite of a few relatively enjoyable action sequences and a decent climactic shootout/melee. A movie that sounds this much fun on paper shouldn’t be such a drag. There’s also an attempt to insert some pathos in the form of Nick trying to reach out to his wife from beyond the grave that while not quite jarring, doesn’t fit in tonally with the rest of the movie.



R.I.P.D. also puts on show some very unpolished visual effects work, the various ghoulish “deados” on the loose are not convincing in the least. The designs of said deados aren’t very imaginative and neither is the way they attack our heroes, all of them pretty much oversized brawlers. Some of the environmental effects, such as a house split in two by “soul stank” and a collapsing parking garage are executed slightly better. One of the visuals that does work though is the mix of resurrected lawmen from various points in history all working in the same office at R.I.P.D. headquarters.

This is a film that has flopped hard at the U.S. box office and it isn’t hard to see why – this isn’t so much “bad” as it is “blah”. It’s a buddy cop action comedy in a supernatural setting, and registers as a damp squib in all of those categories. This is one of those films that arrives in theatres ready-packed into a pine box.

Summary: More films like these and Ryan Reynolds’ career might as well enlist in the Rest in Peace Department.

RATING: 2 out of 5 STARS

Jedd Jong

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