The problem with R.I.P.D. is a lack of faith. Though on the surface, and from the trailers, it comes across as a straight Men in Black clone, there are actually some new ideas buried here. It’s too bad then that A) The writers didn’t trust the source material would translate in earnest and B) The director didn’t trust the audience to get it.”
So the premise. Relatively honest cop Ryan Reynolds is tempted into stealing some evidence from a crime scene (gold pieces no less) only to have a change of heart and decide to return it. Problem is, Ryan’s partner’s got his heart set on keeping the gold and so decides to blast Ryan off a catwalk with an AK47 during the chaos of a drug bust. Classic Kevin Bacon. Time stops and Ryan is yanked on up into heaven to receive judgement. Only on the way, Mary-Louise Parker pulls him aside for a chat and offers him the chance to go back where he came from (he immediately takes it because I forgot to mention he left behind a pretty wife with a cute French accent) in exchange for a century of service to the Rest In Peace Department.
I mean I like it. It’s a little silly but at least it’s new. And casting Jeff Bridges in the Tommy Lee Jones role was a bit of a coup. The dialogue gets a little messy and expositional sometimes, but can also be relatively eloquent and perceptive – especially at the start and during the matter-of-fact discussions that Ryan and Jeff have about the nature of death. The action is fun for the most part and has some inspired moments, but can also be a little samey and sometimes the CGI is a little too obvious.
The story is a fairly typical buddy-cop dramedy with the twist being that the cops are dead. Ryan is sad about dying and wants to reconnect with his wife but can’t because he looks like an old Asian guy. Jeff is still holding on to some hurt feelings over his own death, which he laments given any opportunity – the implication being that his previous partner betrayed him I think. They actually have pretty good chemistry and it’s fun watching them wind each other up.
Later on in the movie it emerges that those gold pieces Ryan took were actually connected to the overarching plot. Which, in hindsight, should have been obvious. I mean they happened to find big chunks of gold at a drug bust? Gold? Come on guys. So that puts wifey in jeopardy. And this is where I think they missed an opportunity.
In order to get back the gold that Ryan hid at home, Kevin Bacon has to imply to his wife that maybe Ryan was the corrupt cop. And in that scene Ryan realises the implications of his situation. Now that he is dead, what she thinks of him is all that matters. Because he no longer exists except in her memory. So if her memory of him is altered, He is altered. It’s a fascinating insight and I enjoyed watching the effect it had on him.
Though usually a comic write-off, I think Ryan Reynolds acquits himself exceptionally well in one very specific scenario – and that is the unexpected-moment-of-intense-drama-within-an-otherwise-harmless-action/comedy. He pulled it off nicely in Smokin’ Aces, screaming for a medic while sheltering a dying Ray Liotta from gunfire as the room and agents around him were torn apart by 50cal sniper rounds from the lesbian assassin across the street. And he does it again here by giving us a brief and miss-able insight into an otherwise stock character. Which is a testament to his ability as an actor and an indictment of the writer’s ability to develop character.
This could have been a fascinating movie if they had just trusted their audience enough to give us a little more character depth. Instead it’s a fun and forgettable romp full of wasted potential. Kind of a metaphor for life.