Saturday, 7 September 2013

R.I.P.D (2013)

It’s really difficult to like Ryan Reynolds these days. I’m sure that there’s a good actor in there somewhere but he just keeps agreeing to star in shitty films. Just take a look at some of his past credentials (The Green Lantern, The Change-Up, The Proposal, Just Friends, The Amityville Horror remake) and it’s a sorry list of bland blockbusters and insipid romantic-comedies. Certainly, it’s a huge change from his early days when his presence would be a welcome addition to any cast-list. These days it’s starting to look as though his two major talents seem to be his rock-hard abs and his ability to get blonde women to marry him. Surely there’s got to be something fantastic hidden away and he’s just waiting for the right film to come along? Unfortunately, that film was never going to be R.I.P.D. Yes, number 3 in this week’s surprise buddy-cop season. Upon release in the US it was universally panned by critics and even given the title of worst film of the year... even with a full 4 months worth of terrible films still to come. So of course I had to check this out for myself. It surely can’t be that bad... can it?

I can imagine just how the first pitch for the R.I.P.D script must have gone: “Well it’s like the type of film you’d get when you mix Men in Black with Ghostbusters starring that cowboy from the remake of True Grit, and the Green Lantern... oh and it’s based on a comic book.” You can see why it was snapped up. The world was crying out for a film focusing on the Rest in Peace Department: a supernatural law enforcement agency that hunts down those pesky deceased souls who just aren’t ready to call it quits yet.

It is the unfortunate Boston detective Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) who finds himself as the newest member of the secret group when he is killed on duty. I say on duty but he is actually killed by his despicable partner, Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon), after Nick gets cold-feet about the pair helping themselves to stolen gold. Rather than finding himself in whatever afterlife awaits him, Nick is recruited by Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker), given a special Deado killing gun and introduced to his new partner, Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges). Roy is straight out of the Wild West and a bit of a lone wolf. He reluctantly accepts his new partner and delights at throwing the rookie in at the deep-end. Which is where find themselves in possession of evidence pointing to a plot to bring utter chaos to the living world.

Instead of being a refreshing new take on the Men in Black format, R.I.P.D is haphazard and certainly not breaking new ground. It’s the same old story that has been churned out in Hollywood time and time again: grizzled veteran cop meets cocky rookie in an utterly bewildering computer-generated world. The flimsy plot serves as a means to move the story forward but few of the characters or narrative components are given any time to develop beyond their basic function. It serves as nothing more than a means to hold together the various CGI sequences that are constantly being thrust in our faces.

A fact that would be less of a problem if the CGI was actually well-crafted. CGI has come a long way in recent years but R.I.P.D sets the entire area back at least 20 years. If it weren’t for the lead actors you could easily believe that this was an example of the plasticky creatures seen in films throughout the late 90s. Despite having a reportedly large budget, the effects just lack the polish of modern CGI and the longer sequences move at great speed in order to cover up these inadequacies. The downside is of course that everything just becomes so confusing and frantic that an audience will be unlikely to follow, let alone appreciate, any of the unfolding mischief.

Everything about this film just screams laziness. The script is littered with bland humour, awkward character interactions and general weirdness. When it comes down to it, R.I.P.D has only two real things going for it: Bridges and Parker are both fun to watch and do the best that they can with the material they are offered. She gives an interesting spin to the prim and proper manger figure and is the perfect foil to Bridges’ over-the-top Roy, who is pretty much an undead version of Rooster Cogburn. Bridges once again does his best cocky cowboy impression but whilst constantly being under threat of getting upstaged by his eyebrows and facial hair. He’s generally the most interesting character on screen (although that isn’t exactly a compliment in this crowd) and puts considerably more energy into the script than it really deserves. Constantly punctuating the lacklustre action with his physical comedy and comic timing, Bridges ensures that this film doesn’t fall on its face in the first 10 minutes.

Certainly it wouldn’t be able to hold itself up on the strength of Reynolds’ performance. He never really finds his place on screen and finds himself being consistently overshadowed, whether that’s by the much-more talented Bridges and Parker or the shocking CGI. Despite being the necessary plot-point that introduces the audience to the R.I.P.D, this film would have been much better off without Nick moaning about his death and mooning over his widow.  He has almost no personality and none of the stand-out material that Roy gets to play with. Kevin Bacon’s dismal villain aside, Nick is the most forgettable character in the entire movie... a huge triumph for both Reynolds and the writers considering just how long he is on screen for.

Overall, R.I.P.D. is a weak example of the action/comedy genre and will never stand-up against previous releases. It never finds high ground and offers a limp and rarely funny script, underdeveloped characters and awful visuals. Not even the energetic attempts of Jeff Bridges can breathe life into this film but, with the help of Mary-Louise Parker, he does offer some glimmers of joys to help you keep going. Whilst this may not be the “worst film of 2013”, it certainly isn’t making up for Hollywood’s recent filmic misfortunes. 

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