Directed by Robert Schwentke
Dark Horse Comics has had a fairly successful history of translating their pulp properties into feature films, with some being good to great (The Mask, Hellboy, Sin City, 300) and others falling into the mediocre to abysmal category (Tank Girl, Barb Wire, Alien vs. Predator). Then there’s the latest property to hit theaters, R.I.P.D., which happens to fall right smack dab in the middle. I wouldn’t have advised the marketing department to dub the film the white man’s Men In Black, but it is a pretty fitting description, admittedly. But in the late Nineties MIB felt fresh and innovative where R.I.P.D. feels derivative and fairly rushed coming in at only 96 minutes after credits. There are some bright spots though, and the finished product (however unfinished it actually looks) reveals a quirky kids’ film that will keep parents entertained as well.
The problem is that this was not wholly conceived as a kids’ film, incorporating some rather dark ideas about loss and fast-moving dialogue that will probably be last seen soaring over your child’s head as they sit and watch in a kind of glazed-over bewilderment. It’s not as if the plot is complex, following a recently slain Boston cop, Nick (Ryan Reynolds), as he partners with a not so recently slain Marshall, Roy (Jeff Bridges), to avenge his death from beyond the grave and keep the villainous, two-faced Hayes (Kevin Bacon) from completing the construction of an ancient talisman that will send the dead back down to wreak havoc upon the living. What’s confusing about R.I.P.D. lies in its execution and pacing, throwing one-liners at lightening speed and moving from one scene to the next like the film itself is trying to wrap things up because it has some medicine it needs to take.
The design work of the deados, stubborn members of the deceased hiding out in their old bodies who refuse to take the trip to the afterlife to face judgement, is clever up to a point. Once discovered, they become monstrous exaggerations of themselves, but the gag wears thin once there’s an entire gang of cartoonish thugs shooting up the streets as they defy the laws of physics. Director Robert Schwentke (Red, Flightplan) twists and angles the camera in order to try to breathe a little more life into the action beats, but it really just adds to the overall messiness of the choreography in certain scenes. The action represents what doesn’t work about the entire film: R.I.P.D. feels like it’s trying to trick you into believing it’s saying something new when really it’s just throwing the kitchen sink at you in 3D.
In the late Nineties when R.I.P.D. began its development process, the buddy cop movie hadn’t really been parodied or turned on its ear yet. Flash forward to 2013 and the concept is deader than the two leads, which is why R.I.P.D. becomes more of a starring vehicle for Bridges with Reynolds essentially being there for a ride along. The bizarre antics of Bridges and his flirtatious quips with Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker) are the true highlights, and the jokes and moments between the two usually succeed more than they bottom out.
To a point, the character of Roy represents a good portion of Jeff Bridges’ career and his experiences up until now. The iconic actor is no stranger to big-budget filmmaking (King Kong, Iron Man) with sci-fi elements (Starman, Tron), and Roy is really a combination of The Dude (The Big Lebowski) and Rooster Cogburn (True Grit). There’s even a touch of Crazy Heart thrown in during a lovely scene where Roy plays an accordion and sings a lament called “The Better Man” that was actually written by Bridges and T Bone Burnett. After winning Oscar gold, he’s clearly having a blast here, and it’s infectious, becoming the clear reason to go and check out R.I.P.D. this weekend if you feel so inclined.
2 1/2 out of 5