Dir. Robert Schwentke, USA, 96mins
Perhaps the more applicable anacronym to assign this big-budget mess is D.O.A., dead on arrival, because it is another failed blockbuster being dumped on our shores with a bad reputation in tow. Boasting an estimated $130M production budget, only $30M of which was recouped during its entire theatrical run at the American box-office, and word-of-mouth that would make The Lone Ranger sound like Oscar fodder, expectations are lower than the ground in which most of its assorted ghouls and ghosts emerge from. However, unlike Disney’s expensive misfire, the difference here is that, sadly, the negativity is fully justified.
The premise is one written on tracing paper laid straight over Men In Black’s DNA, even if it is based on a series of little-known graphic novels. When Nick (Ryan Reynolds) suffers an unfortunate death whilst on the beat with long term partner, Hayes (Kevin Bacon), he is recruited to work for the Rest In Peace Department (clever), by knee-length boot wearing, Chief Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker). Partnered up with long-in-the-tooth cowboy cop, Roy (Jeff Bridges), they must work together to rid the human world from intruding “deados”, and investigate a convoluted plot centred on some golden maguffin, that will ultimately lead Nick to confront his killer.
Starting promisingly before rapidly decomposing, RED director (he loves an anacronym), Schwentke at least gives the film a unique visual enthusiasm. The sequence during which the police take down an abandoned factory is impressive in the way the camera leads the actors around corners, it’s the very definition of kinetic filmmaking, as the lens becomes the dictator of the narrative. It happens early in the film, and is indicative of the entire movie, in that it starts with some real potential, before not knowing what to do with itself and collapsing under the weight of boredom, convolution, and the seen-it-all-before syndrome which cripples it from the off. It kind of gives up half way through.
The ensemble doesn’t fare well; Reynolds can be a likeable screen presence, but not here. Nick is something of a jerk, which is a default setting for Reynolds, so-much-so that you don’t care if he gets any form of redemption. The script doesn’t help, most of his sarcastic one-liners fall flat, and his shtick with the equally culpable Bridges is painfully forced. The erstwhile Dude gurns his way through proceedings with this ridiculous wind-change face, and does very little else.
Kevin Bacon appears to have walked straight from an EE (other mobile phone providers are available) advert, all wisecracks and shameless hamming, and is the only cast member who appears to embrace the out-of-control ludicrousness of it all with his Panto villain bad guy routine.
Continuing the trend for minor, inconsequential female roles in big-budget fare, Weeds’ terrific Mary-Louise Parker is completely wasted as the head of the R.I.P.D., the script replacing charm and jokes with just plain weird, and Szostak (glimpsed in Iron Man 3) is reduced to fawning over an unlikeable lead character and acting all meek and vulnerable in the face of danger. It’s a trend which is growing increasingly tiresome to write about, let alone be subjected to.
The creature design features some sub-League of Extraordinary Gentleman CGI, and the wannabe Ghostbusters style finale is the final breath of a film that has huffed and puffed since the midway stage.
It’d be easier to forgive the failure if this had been a stab at original storytelling, but R.I.P.D. is lazy excess, spewed out in the hope that recognisable stars and themes will reap the rewards at the box-office. Hollywood take note; audiences might just be on to you.