2013 - 96 minutes
Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Written by: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephanie Szostak, James Hong, Marisa Miller
Almost offensive in its staleness, “R.I.P.D.” sputters through the motions of a (supposed to be) fun action comedy to a standard conclusion, bumbling through a clunky setup and boring second act along the way. It’s perplexing how the film seems to always strike the wrong note – action is woefully uninspired, there’s a mix of comedy and post-death drama that is decisively more awkward than funny and absolutely nothing interesting is done with the concept of deceased officers of the law protecting the living from undead souls who refuse to move on.
A few brief episodes open the film to thinly establish Boston cop Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) and his relationship with French wife Julia (Stephanie Szostak) and partner Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon). Nick and Hayes briefly discuss an act where they stole gold from evidence, but Nick is having second thoughts and wants to turn it in. Hayes seems agreeable, but sharply turns when the pair is called to a warehouse where a purported drug dealer is holed up. Amid the chaos Hayes gets the drop on Nick and shoots him dead.
In the only interesting few moments of the film, the newly deceased Nick slowly walks through the scene, past frozen fireballs and muzzle flashes and rappelling officers through the warehouse. The 3D effect was used neatly here and is the only standout third dimension sequence.
Instead of heading for the pearly gates, Nick is sucked up a big vacuum and into the office of the R.I.P.D. (the Rest in Peace Department) where he meets Mildred Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker). She explains – in the strange, sarcastically comedic tone of the film – that he is now assigned to the law enforcement group that goes after renegade “deados” that stay on Earth. He’s unceremoniously teamed with veteran officer Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges), who, in another odd touch, is a lawman from the 1800s for no other reason than to wear a cowboy hat and talk differently than Nick.
Comparisons are out there and it’s almost impossible to talk about “R.I.P.D.” without mentioning the “Men in Black” series. It is pretty striking how unabashed the filmmakers are with the similarities. Two mismatched partners from different generations; the older one who drives at breakneck speed. A hidden supernatural/alien world that coexists with the world we know. Big guns with special ammo. The creature designs look like they’re right off the rejected submissions for “MIB.” There are even Elvis jokes.
All “R.I.P.D.” is missing from the Tommy Lee Jones/Will Smith team-ups is anything that makes it work. Chemistry between the mismatched pair of Reynolds and Bridges is strictly superficial and has nothing to do with their characters, but with the looks of their characters.
The duo quickly stumbles into a huge plot that involves Nick’s former partner, stolen gold and the deados unleashing the land of the dead on Earth. Whatever that means. I guess the dead all want to come back and kill us or something.
While tripping to a solution for the apocalypse, the partners trade quips about personality quirks in rapid-fire succession that you’ve seen in every Ryan Reynolds film. Nick is also desperate to contact and comfort Julia, and let her know he’s still around (kinda). But Julia can't see or hear the real Nick. The living world sees him as an elderly Chinese man (great character actor James Hong), while they see Roy as a buxom blond with a low-cut dress (Marisa Miller). Pointless and unfunny the first time the gag plays, it gets less funny and more pointless as the film goes on.
As Roy explains to Nick, they can’t communicate with those they care about because “the universe is smarter than us.” And I’d wager roughly 99% of filmgoers are smarter than the tired script would make them out to be. It does get almost insulting that we’re expected to find anything in “R.I.P.D.” funny, dramatic, or remotely moving in any way whatsoever.
The end foreshadows (warns of?) a sequel, but I doubt one will ever materialize. “R.I.P.D.” is made to be forgotten as soon as you leave the theater.
© 2013 by Blake Crane