The good guys dress in black, remember that. Mostly because they’ve already been to their own funerals.
Ryan Reynolds hasn’t exactly got an unblemished career when it comes to comic book adaptations. From the excesses of Blade: Trinity to the misfired Green Lantern and the simply confused X-Men Origins: Wolverine, any personal love the actor might have for the graphic medium is yet to be successfully translated to the screen. The source material for director Robert Schwentke’s R.I.P.D. didn’t inspire a huge amount of hope for breaking that streak, based on a fun but mostly forgettable 2003 mini-series by Peter M. Lenkov and Lucas Marangon.
Drawing on the visual language of the Men In Black films just as much as the comic book, screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi take the basic framework of Lenkov’s slender story and spin it out into a more robust albeit derivative narrative. Boston Detectives Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) and Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon) steal some gold from a crime bust, but when Walker gets cold feet about the illegality, Hayes uses a warehouse raid as a cover to murder his partner. Walker awakens in the afterlife, and is informed by the officious Mildred Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker) that he is now part of the Rest in Peace Department, condemned to catch runaway ghosts and demons for the next hundred years. Saddled with a cowboy of a partner in Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges), Walker juggles his new job with trying to stop the apocalypse, along with Hayes putting the moves on his widow Julia (Stephanie Szostak).
Schwentke is no stranger to high-concept action adaptations of comics, having previously brought the Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner series RED to the screen. Returning cast member Mary-Louise Parker is one of the best things in the film, her deadpan delivery masking a barely restrained insanity that bubbles to the surface for terrific comedic timing. Jeff Bridges delivers an outlandish take on his own Rooster Cogburn from True Grit, anachronistically chewing through lines and scenery with wilful and gleeful intent. Reynolds is a capable action hero, although brings very little to the table that couldn’t be found in whole platter of near identical leading men. His often stony performance feels like he has actually died, and is sleepwalking his way through the film, although his presence doesn’t detract from .
To the credit of the film, it builds to a much more satisfying and logical climax than the comic book that spawned it, and some of the sequences are visually impressive. Yet the overall film lacks cohesive, a fault of the source material, and owes far too much to MIB to distinguish itself as its own franchise. It may have set its sights on bigger things, but for now it’s a film that should quietly rest in peace.
R.I.P.D. was released in Australia on 12 September 2013 from Universal.
If you are an iTunes user, subscribe to our weekly podcast free here and please leave us feedback.