Film review: RIPD, from Built For Speed

Some films arrive with such bad word of mouth it’s hard not to have a negative opinion of them before they’ve even screened.  RIPD has been preceded by so many scathing reviews we would have been forgiven for thinking it was a snuff movie. While this clumsy, garish, depressingly derivative fusion of Men In Black, Ghostbusters and supernatural weepie Ghost is a headache-inducing mess of a film, it’s not quite the abomination some of the popular movie rating systems might suggest.

RIPD sees Ryan Reynolds play Boston cop Nick Walker an apparently squeaky-clean detective who is actually involved in a scam pinching gold from crims he has collared with his partner Hayes (Kevin Bacon). When Nick is killed after threatening to expose their scheme he finds himself in a strange afterlife police department.  There, a senior officer (Mary Louise Parker) informs him that he has been temporarily spared judgement and a possible trip to Hell because the forces of cosmic justice need his services as a cop.  Apparently, the souls of deceased crims occasionally slip through the judgement net and return to earth to continue their nefarious activities.  Walker’s job is to track them down and bring them in. To his horror he’s partnered with an ornery deceased Wild West law man named Roy (Jeff Bridges).   As they pursue the deceased criminal or “deadoes” as they’re called, the pair discover a link between this supernatural world and the slimy Hayes.

None of this story makes any sense as Director Robert Schwentke ditches logic and plot coherence in favour of loud, childish, over-the-top, Men in Black-style computer-generated action sequences.  The cgi is mostly appalling with the mutating bad guys depicted as obese, rubbery, pulpy creatures who have the jerky movement of Jar Jar Binks.  The film also makes jarring tonal shifts from special effects frenzy to quirky comedy to romance to police drama.  Unfortunately, it never convinces under any of these guises.

The film attempts to forge an odd couple, buddy cop relationship between the irascible old coot Roy and the sensitive youngster Walker but despite a few amusing moments of friction and mutual contempt between the two, there’s little chemistry and few laughs.

Ryan Reynolds looks embarrassed to be in this film and seems unsure whether to play his role for comedy or drama.  Jeff Bridges, however, embraces the stupidity of the concept and gleefully chomps the scenery.  Bridges’ grumbling Huckleberry Hound voice makes him almost incoherent but he still manages to wring something vaguely enjoyable from his Wyatt Earp-like character. Few of the other cast members have much to do as they’re swamped by the clunky special effects although Kevin Bacon manages to exude his typical creepiness.

It seems like aeons since this type of big-budget, effects driven action/comedy was done well and while we hope the art hasn’t been lost entirely, RIPD does not leave us feeling very optimistic.

Nick’s rating: One and a half stars.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Robert Schwentke.

Release date: 12th Sept 2013.

Running time: 96 mins.

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