Based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name, R.I.P.D. brings together Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges in a tale of justice in the afterlife. With this being another comic adaptation for Reynolds after Green Lantern, would he be more successful this time around?
‘Nick Walker’ (Ryan Reynolds) is a Boston PD cop and a devoted husband struggling to make ends meet. Determined to provide for his wife, ‘Julia’ (Stephanie Szostak), he takes some gold he and his partner ‘Hayes’ (Kevin Bacon) find at a bust. ‘Nick’ has second thoughts about this and with his conscience weighing heavily on him, tells his partner that he can’t go through with it. Before he can do anything about it though, he is killed in the line of duty and finds himself whisked into the office of the ‘Rest In Peace Department’, who are the Police of the afterlife. Given the chance to atone and make a good impression before his judgement day, he agrees to become an R.I.P.D. officer and is partnered with ‘Roy Pulsipher’ (Jeff Bridges), a long serving R.I.P.D. officer and former Wild West Lawman. Tasked with tracking down and returning escaped criminals who are avoiding final judgment by hiding on Earth, ‘Walker’ and ‘Pulsipher’ initially find their situation difficult, but when they uncover a mysterious plot, their partnership is truly tested.
I am not a big comic reader, but do so occasionally. So, although I haven’t read the comic this film is based on, I do have a soft spot for Dark Horse as they printed Flaming Carrot, one of my favourites. For that reason, I was slightly disposed to hope for the best with this film. From the description of the setup though, it immediately made me think of Good Vs Evil, a TV series from 1999-2000 which was similarly set in an ‘afterlife Police Department’ and worked pretty well, even if it only lasted 2 seasons.
The problem with R.I.P.D. is that I would have preferred watching Good Vs Evil. I don’t know if the original comic has that Men In Black edge to it, but it is clearly what they’ve aimed for. At the same time, they have forgotten to put any real pizzazz into the plot. Men In Black, at least the first one, was done well and had some real moments of quality, with a cast and director who understood comedy and drama. This is not the case with R.I.P.D., as the story sort of plods along with some connected set pieces involving lots of shooting and explosions while you just wish that you cared about any of it. There are several sections in this film, where the CGI and special effects are of interest, but much more in the sense of how impressive the effect is as opposed to how it helps the narrative. This is not how it is supposed to be as effects should always be subservient to the story. Unfortunately, the story is poor, so maybe the effects just steamrollered over the top. This might be forgivable if it was hilarious, but it is not.
In the leading role, Ryan Reynolds is a bit of a ‘nothing’ presence. While he does have some charisma, he doesn’t really instill you with the idea that he’s a good cop with years of experience or any great personality. He’s just a bit bland. Jeff Bridges, on the other hand, maybe overplays it a bit, but is at least good value as the ‘man out of time’. However, it is Mary-Louise Parker that is the real gem here. Her character actually has some bite and a bit of odd sass that adds an air of mystery and tension, and although you never get the answers to who she was before R.I.P.D., you are intrigued. Quite frankly, if this film had been centred on Mary-Louise Parker and Jeff Bridges, I would have been much happier. It is only in their scenes that there is any spark, so in the unlikely event of any sequels (the Box Office numbers have been bad), they should just hire Parker and have done with it.
Initially, I was predisposed to give this a chance, as I stated before, but this mish-mash failed to grab my attention. There is also an argument that Ryan Reynolds should be kept away from comic book adaptations in the future, as his track record would seem to suggest it is not his best genre. He has his moments, maybe, but this is not one of them. If you want to see a Dark Horse adaptation, go and watch Hellboy, which is far superior, and as good as you’ll get. At least, until someone makes a Flaming Carrot film.