Review: Ghost Cop Flick ‘R.I.P.D.’ Needs Resuscitating

By July 18, 2013

Amid the sea of reboots and unnecessary sequels at the box office this year, R.I.P.D. was set to be the clever alternative to typical summer fare. Unfortunately, the action-adventure flick has little to offer aside from its ridiculously appealing premise – oh, what promise it had.

When Boston cop Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) is shot and killed on the job, he is recruited to join a special task force comprised of dead police officers (aptly titled the Rest in Peace Department). After a semi-imaginative death scene, he is coldly greeted by the spunkily dressed but deadpan Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker). She informs him that his job is to protect the living from “bad souls that escaped judgment” – or “Deados” – and introduces him to his new partner, Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges).

Their working relationship isn’t a smooth one. Roy’s a loose cannon who doesn’t play by the R.I.P.D’s rules. He often ends up shooting those he’s attempting to capture even though he’s been advised to apprehend them. What’s more, the two must take on new appearances in order to mask their identities from the living. Nick must adopt the looks of an “old Chinese guy” (James Hong), which prompts some arguably offensive remarks while Roy’s avatar is a statuesque blonde (Marisa Miller). This actually proves to be a constantly funny plotline. How could Jeff Bridges occupying the form of a supermodel not be?

The mismatched partners must set aside their differences when they discover that Nick’s former partner Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon) literally holds the key to the afterlife. If he isn’t stopped, the dead will fall to earth.

Unfortunately, what could have been a great film never rise beyond sub-par entertainment. That’s a real shame because the movie certainly has a lot of heart. The characters are fun and inventive, and the overall themes are presented effectively.

This may also technically be categorized as a zombie film, which Universal would presumably hopes will assure a built-in audience. While this may serve the film at the box office during its opening weekend, bad word of mouth could crush its prospects and chances of turning into a franchise. Then again, it seems like just about everything is getting a sequel these days. You get the feeling that the script was born out of a truly great singular idea and not much else – which is puzzling when you consider that R.I.P.D. is based on the well-written comic book “Rest in Peace Department” by Peter M. Lenkov.

Many of the intended comedic sequences, like when the dead take their true ghastly form when coming into contact with Indian food, are more fitting for an animated film. Sure things (like the “Eternal Affairs” department) are amusing, but the world introduced doesn’t seem too thought out.

Not surprisingly, Bridges is the main highlight. Sure, he’s basically playing his Rooster Cogburn character from True Grit again, but it works in this context, too. (Fun fact: Zach Galifianakis was originally cast in his role.)

Reynolds, who’s gotten pretty good at playing “shocked guy” by now, is perfectly cast and complements Bridges’ eccentricities well. Parker’s intriguing take on Proctor also falls under the “pros” category. Her scenes with Bridges are especially fun to watch, as it’s implied they’ve had a tumultuous romance.

As for Bacon, he could also be accused of recycling an old character. Officer Hayes is essentially a variation on Sebastian Shaw from X-Men: First Class if he’d joined the police force. The thing is, that character was pretty mediocre the first time around and certainly not worth revisiting. Unfortunately, the same can be said about R.I.P.D. as a whole.

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Justine Browning
Justine is a film and culture reporter whose work has appeared in USA Today, Indie Wire and The Huffington Post. She currently serves as an on-camera correspondent for MovieWeb and Cine Movie TV.