Monday, September 2, 2013

"R.I.P.D." (2013) Review


"R.I.P.D." (2013) Review

The Summer of 2013 seems destined to be known as "The Season of Flops". I have never come across so many summer movies that bombed at the box office in such a short space of time. One of those flops turned out to be "R.I.P.D.", a recent adaptation of Peter M. Lenkov's comic book novel, "Rest in Peace Department"

The movie begins with the aftermath of the theft of gold found during a drug bust by Boston Police Department Detectives Nick Walker and Bobby Hayes. Nick buries the gold in his backyard, hoping to use his share of the gold for a better life for his wife and himself. But when he expresses regret for taking the gold to his partner Hayes, the latter kills Nick during a police raid at a warehouse in order to prevent the younger man from returning the gold. After ascending to the afterlife, Nick finds himself in into the office of Mildred Proctor, director of the Boston division of the Rest In Peace Department (R.I.P.D.), an agency that recruits deceased police officers to patrol the afterlife and capture "Deados" - spirits that failed to cross over and return to Earth as monstrous ghosts. Nick agrees to join the R.I.P.D. after Proctor explains that it would stave off a potentially negative final judgment for at least a century. He also meets his new partner, an ex-U.S. Marshal from the 1800s named Roy Pulsipher. 

While attending his funeral, Nick learns that all R.I.P.D. officers have avatars - fake appearances perceived by the living. Nick is viewed as an elderly Chinese man named Jerry Chen and the living see Roy as a beautiful Russian woman named Opal Pavlenko. When the two partners nab and kill a suspect named Stanley Nawlicki, they find pieces of gold identical to the ones Nick and his old partner Hayes had stolen. The duo learn from one of Roy's snitches that the gold is connected to a dealer named Elliot. They trace Elliot to none other than Nick's former partner, Bobby Hayes . . . and eventually learn that the latter is actually a "Deado", who used a token to disguise his dead state. They also learn that both Hayes and Elliot have been gathering gold to construct a mystic device called the Staff of Jericho, which could reverse the tunnel that transports the dead into the afterlife, returning them to Earth.

What can I say about "R.I.P.D."? It was not perfect. Ryan Reynolds gave a first-rate performance as the movie's main character, Nick Walker. But the character also proved to be a somewhat dour and slightly off-putting personality who seemed to have little patience with his R.I.P.D. partner. Not only did I find Christophe Beck's score unmemorable, but almost undetectable. Once the Bobby Hayes character is revealed to be a "Deado", he struck me as . . . somewhat unthreatening. It did not help that actor Kevin Bacon portrayed the character with a less menacing air, after his character's big secret was revealed. And I do not know whether to blame Bacon, director Robert Schwentke or Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi's screenplay. My biggest beef with "R.I.P.D." proved to be the movie's final action sequence. The final battle between the two R.I.P.D. officers and Hayes and the other "Deadoes" struck me as anti-climatic . . . lacking in substance. The chase sequence through downtown Boston seemed fine. But the fight on the roof of one of the city's skyscrapers did not strike me as particularly exciting or eventful. Nick and Roy's defeat of Hayes and the other spirits almost seemed to easy. I cannot help but blame Schwentke, whose direction of the action finale in 2010's "RED" did not particularly impress me.

I could have easily accused "R.I.P.D." of lack of originality, pointing out that it seemed like a mixture of the MEN IN BLACK franchise and Showtime's 2003-2004 series, "DEAD LIKE ME". And I would be right. But I cannot blame the director or the screenwriters for the lack of originality. The blame belongs to Peter M. Lenkov, who created the comic book in the first place. But if I must be honest, I do not care if the movie's premise lacked any real originality. In the end, I realized I enjoyed the idea of supernatural cops reigning in dead spirits too much to really care. There were other aspect of"R.I.P.D." that I also enjoyed. 

The makeup department did an outstanding job with some of the "Deado" characters, especially for the Elliot character, whose revelation as a dead spirit nearly blew my mind. I also enjoyed Alwin H. Küchler's photography of Boston, even if the scenes could have used sharper color. Despite Reynolds' dour portrayal of the Nick Walker character, I cannot deny that he and Jeff Bridges made a pretty decent screen team. But it was the interaction between Bridges' Roy Pulsipher and Mary-Louise Parker's Mildred Proctor that really seemed to sizzle to me. I also enjoyed the idea of Nick and Roy's avatars as a duo - especially in the form of veteran actor James Hong and model Marissa Miller. For some reason, the two clicked on screen . . . in a rather eccentric way. And although I had some problems with the story's finale, I must admit that I found the humor featured in the movie rather funny - especially many of Bridges' lines and some of his scenes with Parker.

Yes, I realize that "R.I.P.D." was not particularly perfect or even original. But you know what? I still managed to enjoy the film, despite its imperfections. The movie featured some outstanding visual effects, sharp humor from Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi; and some funny performances, especially from the likes of Jeff Bridges and Mary-Louise Parker. I am certain that many would disagree with me, but I did not find "R.I.P.D." a waste of my time.

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