Wednesday, July 24, 2013

FILM REVIEW OF ''R.I.P.D.'' (2013)

R.I.P.D. (2013) Movie Poster

Actor Jeff Bridges chews the scenery ravenously in the supernatural action-comedy “R.I.P.D.” (**1/2 stars out of ****) where he camps it up as a posthumous Old West marshal.  “Red” director Robert Schwentke and “Clash of the Titans” scenarists Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi have adapted writer Peter M. Lenkov’s Bangsian fantasy that Dark Horse Comics published back in 1999. For the record, a Bangsian fantasy appropriates either a literary figure or a historical personage for a fable laid in the afterlife.  Like Lenkov’s graphic novel, Schwentke’s imaginative but formulaic melodrama emulates both “Ghostbusters” and “Men in Black.”  Ryan Reynolds of “Green Lantern” co-stars as Bridges’ straight-guy sidekick.  As Bridges’ co-star,  Reynolds takes his character a mite more seriously.  He plays a contemporary Boston policeman who perishes in the line of duty.  Meanwhile, charming Mary-Louise Parker of “Weeds” is cast as their supervisor in the Rest In Peace Department.  Despite its hopelessly derivative origins, “R.I.P.D.” qualifies as an above average epic.  Happily, “R.I.P.D.” isn’t a sequel.  This hybrid 'origins' thriller about the after-life often makes for murky melodrama, but the larger-than-life characters and the stalwart cast will keep you interested.  Impressive CGI visual effects, atmospheric cinematography, hilarious sight gags, and a lean and mean 96-minute running time constitute its best qualities.  The worst thing about this Universal Pictures’ comic book adaptation is that it doesn’t always provide enough details for many of its plot holes.  In other words, we learn little about the origins of the R.I.P.D. and its rules.  Nevertheless, the film adaptation is a vast improvement over Lenkov's graphic novel.

 Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges in R.I.P.D. (2013) Movie Image

In “R.I.P.D.,” the dead struggle to evade eternal judgment and hole up indefinitely on Earth.  These amoral minions are designated as ‘deados,’ and they are dastardly.  Remember in the “Men in Black” movies how the bugs concealed themselves in animals and humans?  Just the opposite occurs here.  When the ‘deados’ are exposed, these apparently normal people swell up into misshapen Goliaths.  No, they aren’t as huge as the Marshmallow Man in director Ivan Reitman’s “Ghostbusters.”  Nevertheless, they can leap across vast spaces, scramble up the sides of skyscrapers like cockroaches, and raise a whole lot of Hell.  Unless lawmen like Roy Pulsipher (Bridges) and Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) expose these post-mortem madmen for the monsters that they are, the Earth will suffer.  According to their boss lady, Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker), the souls of the death continue to rot on Earth and create a stench that pollutes the environment.  Our heroes wield flashy, extra-large handguns with celestial white bullets like those in the “Underworld” movies.  Roy and Nick can shoot these ‘deados’ and permanently erase them.  Proctor recruited Roy and Nick after they died, and they fill the ranks of other legendary lawmen that prowl the Earth for these despicable ‘deados.’

Ryan Reynolds in R.I.P.D. (2013) Movie Image

Detective Sergeant Nick Walker is living ‘happily ever after’ with his pretty wife Julia (Stephanie Szostak of “Iron Man 3”) in Boston.  As the story unfolds, Julia awakens Nick and comments about an orange tree growing in their back yard.  What poor Julia doesn’t know is Nick and his shady partner Hayes (Kevin Bacon of “X-Men: First Class”) just made a drug bust and stumbled onto a cache of gold.  Rather than turning the precious ore over to the authorities, Hayes convinced Nick to split it with him.  Nick buries his gold in the hole that he carved out of his yard for the orange tree.  After Julia assures him that all she needs in life is his love, Nick has second thoughts and a guilty conscience.  He tells Hayes he must turn in his share of the gold.  Nevertheless, he assures Hayes that he would never inform on him if Hayes keeps his share.  Reluctantly, Hayes agrees that his dreams of buying a speedboat with his share were illusionary.  At that moment, the Boston Police receive a tip that the ‘most wanted’ meth dealer in town has been located.  Nick and Hayes barrel into the hide-out with the rest of Boston’s Finest either on their heels or swarming around them in helicopters.  During the melee, Hayes confronts Nick and shoots him repeatedly.  Nick plunges to his death.  No sooner has Nick died that his body is drawn aloft into a heavenly vortex.  All this action transpires efficiently during the first quarter hour of “R.I.P.D.” 

Mary Louise Parker in R.I.P.D. (2013) Movie Image

Proctor awaits Nick with a bottle of Fresca on her desk.  She explains that the Rest in Peace Department needs of men with his special skills.  She assigns him to Marshal Roy Pulsipher, but Pulsipher doesn’t want a new partner.  In some ways, Roy behaves like Dirty Harry.  He prefers to work solo, but Proctor persuades Roy to mentor Nick.  Although our heroes are deceased, they aren’t flesh-eating zombies.  They exist in another dimension, but they can tread the Earth the same way as humans and their ‘deado’ adversaries.  The first thing that Roy does for Nick is escort him to his own funeral.  Furiously, Nick watches helplessly as the treacherous Hayes consoles Julia.  Initially, Nick agrees to serve on the R.I.P.D. Boston chapter so he could be near his wife.  The catch is neither Roy nor Nick look like they did when they were alive.  Instead, they have been assigned avatars.  Roy’s avatar is drop-dead-gorgeous Opal Pavlenko (Victoria’s Secrets’ model Marisa Millar), while Nick’s avatar is an elderly Chinese man named Jerry Chen (James Hong of “Chinatown”).  “R.I.P.D.” switches back and forth between our protagonists and their avatars, but it doesn’t wear the joke out.  Eventually, Nick gets another avatar and the closing moments of the movie will have you laughing out loud at his new avatar.

Jeff Bridges in R.I.P.D. (2013) Movie Image

Jeff Bridges delivers an outlandish Yosemite Sam performance reminiscent of his Oscar-nominated performance as Marshal Rooster Cogburn in the “True Grit” remake.  Kevin Bacon makes a hopelessly obnoxious villain. He wants to build a mysterious tower of gold. The best thing about “R.I.P.D.” is that it’s derivative but different.  Hollywood abhors originality.  You won’t see another comic blockbuster like “R.I.P.D.” this summer, and this will be sufficient for most moviegoers.

James Hong and Marisa Miller in R.I.P.D. (2013) Movie Image

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