R.I.P.D. is trying oh-so-hard to be Men in Black. It’s clawing at it, pushing itself to be something that’s plainly a much superior product. Indeed, R.I.P.D. is a lazy film that falls flat at every turn, making it hard to recommend on almost any level. Go and buy a copy of Men in Black instead of watching this rubbish – it’ll probably be cheaper and you’ll enjoy it a lot more.
Ranting aside, R.I.P.D. is essentially a supernatural version of Men in Black – just swap aliens with ‘Deados’ and you’re right about there. Ryan Reynolds is Nick Walker, a Boston cop who’s killed on the job. Rather than passing on however, Nick is pulled into the bland offices of the Rest In Peace Department where, to guarantee himself a rosy afterlife, he signs on as an R.I.P.D. officer.
Together with old-fashioned partner Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges channelling cowboy Jeff Bridges), Nick tracks down souls that have managed to linger on Earth beyond death: the Deados. Of course, something larger is afoot and it probably has something to do with Nick’s former partner Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon) – the man who betrayed and murdered Nick in the first place.
The problem is that director Robert Schwentke (RED) has created a movie that doesn’t succeed in any area despite the potential for inventiveness. It’s not flat out awful, it’s just flat. It makes you wonder how the studio was convinced to dedicate $130 million to the project – it certainly can’t have been on the merits of the cliché and predictable screenplay which struggles to plot an original course.
The R.I.P.D. headquarters feel like a cheap knockoff of the MIB base in Men in Black, the action is only passable at best so the film can’t be recommended on that basis and the comedy barely sustains the short 96-minute runtime. To be fair, the movie manages some mileage out of the fact that to everyone else Nick and Roy look like an old Chinese guy and hot blonde respectively, but it’s mostly Bridges’ indecipherable undead marshal from the Wild West who keeps it watchable.
There’s no tension, which is also a major issue. Since Nick and Roy are already dead there’s basically no way for them to get injured in any capacity (well, there is, but it never really comes into play). Then there’s the creature design, which is horrible. Men in Black was rightly praised for its makeup and costuming in addition to its computer work, with clever imagination displayed across the board. By comparison, the Deados of R.I.P.D. are all visual effects and dated by even today’s standards. They’re essentially fake CG humans – I see no convincing reason why such special effects had to be used over more traditional techniques – which are, just like the movie, a lazy and half-assed effort.
R.I.P.D. is a failed knockoff of Men in Black that feels cheap and falls flat despite the money thrown at it.