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R.I.P.D. (2013), a paint-by-numbers approach to destroying a potentially fun movie with poor filmmaking

July 24, 2013

MY CALL:  This could have been a very fun spin on Men in Black with evil spirits and undead law enforcement had it not been for soul-crushingly bad directing and film-editing which rendered this movie hardly watchable-maybe even unwatchable.  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH:  The Men in Black series (1997, 2002, 2012) for sure!  They succeed in terms of budget, writing and direction where R.I.P.D. fails over and over again.

Let’s start by addressing something that must be acknowledged before we proceed to the review…I have a bro-crush on Ryan Reynolds (Safe House, The Change-Up).  It’s no secret.  He’s got a sharp sense of humor, even sharper features and abs, and is the leading cause of SHAD (screaming heart attack syndrome) in women under 40.  I’ll admit it–I wish I was him, I want to hang out with him and he may be the only actor who I’d ever approach in public like a total fan boy.  I have a history of defending his poor choices.  Poor direction and even worse writing and character development led to the utter ruin of Green Lantern (2011), pulling Ryan into the wake of vicious criticism misdirected at the star instead of a stillborn script followed up by ill-execution.  And while I was pretty disappointed with X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), again I must blame the director and writers.  Besides, every Marvel fan EVER is now totally stoked for the day that Ryan finally stars in a Deadpool movie–if only they’d stop the eternal buzz-cancel cycle.  He’s one of the coolest guys ever and he gets a bad rap.  People say “he’s no movie star.”  But if Anthony Hopkins or Denzel was given a shit script I have a feeling people would suddenly rush to their defense and point their fingers at the director and/or lousy lines.  Since Ryan has a history of choosing more “fun” movies, I guess he has yet to garner the clout of these more-reputed actors.

That said, I loved watching Ryan in R.I.P.D.  That’s not to say that I liked the movie…which was horrible.  But Ryan was his typical fast-on-the-trigger quippy self.  I thought he acted his role well and provided what we wanted.  Unfortunately, as has plagued him before, poor direction and even worse film-editing muted the effectiveness and timing of his better lines.  Actually, this flaw hampered all of the lines and all of the scenes!  This must be the most produced movie I’ve ever seen for which I specifically noticed the awful work that took place on the cutting room floor–a rare observation, I believe, if you stop to think about it.  Outside of being a Ryan fan, this deficiency was so prevalent that I’d deem this movie nearly unwatchable to anyone who isn’t under the influence of a behavior-modifying substance.

This debacle follows Nick (Ryan Reynolds), a skilled cop who is murdered in the line of duty by his crooked partner.  Then he joins an undead police force (the RIPD)–the origins of which are never explained–under the tutelage of a more experienced,  critical joker of an 1800s lawman.  Together they are charged with recovering souls that have escaped judgment and hide among the living.  These evil souls, called “deados”, leave clues as a result of their foul “soul stank” and reveal their true form in the presence of Indian food–you got that…Indian food, OF F@(#!^@ COURSE,  is the cosmic identifier of evil souls–even the mere suggestion or description of Indian food forces deados to reveal their true nature.  That was a nice funny and utterly rando-insane touch.

If you saw the previews on TV and thought “well, this feels familiar,” it’s because it should be.  This movie does more than simply borrow from Men in Black (1997).  This basically IS Men in Black but with evil Hell-bound souls and undead lawmen instead of aliens and alien-hunting agents.  Our RIPD characters are equipped with special weapons, hunt perps that the public doesn’t know about, have a special secret workplace and, since they couldn’t have a Neuralizer, they appear to the living in different forms: avatars.  Jeff Bridges, who appears as drunk as when he’d step off the set of True Grit, appears as Victoria’s Secret supermodel Marisa Miller and Ryan Reynolds appears as “an old Chinese guy” (James Hong; Kung Fu Panda 2, Safe).  Despite all the entertaining potential of this MIB remake, destitute filmmaking all the way from poor camera angle choices to post-production yields an unsavory result.

The poor choice to work on this movie was not Ryan’s alone.  Kevin Bacon (Crazy Stupid Love, X-Men: First Class) strikes me as entirely out of place playing Ryan’s crooked cop partner.  Every time I saw Bacon on screen all I could think was duuude?  What are you even doing here!?!!?!  Why are you in this?  Whereas Jeff Bridges (TRON: Legacy, Crazy Heart) presents a mess of a hybrid between a more jovial version of his True Grit role and Men in Black‘s Agent K.  Picking up Rip Torn’s MIB role is Mary-Louise Parker (RED 2, Weeds), who does fine, I guess.  The deado CGI effects were also a mixed bag of fun, neat to look at, mundane or boring.  Speaking of boring, the action at the end of the movie is really disappointing.  The whole finale is disappointing–even the idea behind it.

There are a lot of beloved actors in this.  But don’t trust them!  It’s a TRAP!!!!  This movie will likely make you lose respect for them.  I can only hope that this will receive some special post-release Blu-Ray cut that better allows these actors to shine, be funny and entertain us.  But as it stands this was more like watching Men in Black underwater without headphones or goggles.

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