RIPD film review.

Release Date: 20 September 2013
12A | 96 minutes
Distributor: Universal
Director: Robert Schwentke
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Mary-Louise Parker, Kevin Bacon, Robert Knepper

Pity poor detective Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds), a man caught on the horns of a dilemma. He and his partner Bobby (Kevin Bacon) are hiding a stash of gold from a drugs bust, but Nick wants to do the right thing. Inconveniently, Bobby has decided to double cross him, and Nick ends up dead, hoovered up to a minimalist office where he’s recruited for the Rest In Peace Department. To pay off his debt and avoid eternal judgement, he’ll have to round up “Deados”, rotten spirits lingering in the land of the living.

Pity everyone involved with this film, too. Though having said that, perhaps “pity” isn’t quite the word, as what pours from the screen while you watch this comic book adaptation is seething, unadulterated cynicism. Here’s the shake-and-make movie recipe they followed: take the basic concept of Men In Black (law enforcement for an unusual crowd), replace the aliens with ghosts, change a few other McGuffins and the villain’s globe-threatening plan and boom! Surely a recipe for box office success? Except that’s not what happened when the film launched to a whimper at the US box office.

It’s not difficult to see why: for all the crash-bang-wallop effects (some of which look a lot less convincing than even Men In Black’s 1997-era visuals) and attempts at buddy comedy, Red director Robert Schwentke’s latest lacks a real spark, content to blithely tick boxes en route to the usual big finale like a zombie shuffling ever onwards.

Reynolds, usually a likeable, quick-witted sort, is reduced to bland heroism here, poorly written wisecracks withering even as they leave his mouth. Attempts to drum up buddy cop chemistry are equally unsuccessful, as Jeff Bridges’s gruff cowboy comes across as a character in a different film, a clumsy, weird hybrid of Tron: Legacy’s laidback Kevin Flynn and True Grit’s old fashioned Rooster Cogburn. Everyone else, including Bacon and Stephenie Szostak as Walker’s wife, feel like cyphers.

Little of the world seems particularly fascinating, and efforts to shoehorn in emotion or hint at deeper themes appear drawn from screenwriting 101. We’ll resist the burning temptation to make any “dead on arrival” wisecracks and simply point you to either the trade of the original comic or the first MIB movie instead. Both are a much better use of your time and money.

James White

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