Ryan Reynolds is the only slightly crooked Boston cop, whisked to a netherworld owing more to A Life Less Ordinary than A Matter of Life and Death, with the office furniture of Brazil thrown in for good measure. To escape judgment, Reynolds opts to serve undead overtime with the titular team, returning to Earth with Jeff Bridges' old west sheriff, the odd-buddy couple taking on the avatars of James Hong and Marisa Miller respectively. And if you think there's nothing funny about the pairing of a short Asian guy and a tall underwear model, then R.I.P.D. is not for you. Quite who it is for remains a mystery; those young enough to laugh at the sub-MiB/Ghostbusters monsters will be bored by the tragi-romantic backstory (Reynolds has left behind a loving wife blah blah blah), and everyone else will be dismayed by the shambolic narrative and inconsistent tone.
Walker is still adjusting to being dead when he's introduced to his reluctant partner, a wild man from the Old West named Roysiphus Pulsipher, or Roy for short. Played by Jeff Bridges, he is the movie's main source of comic relief as Reynolds' Walker glumly tries to use his renewed access to Boston to solve the mystery that led to his own demise. Tthis odd couple of cops stumbles across a Deado conspiracy that puts Walker's widow in danger as well as the whole world at risk, and of course, Walker and Roy are mankind's last chance against being overrun by souls damned to hell. But Walker can't even warn his former wife because he's returned to Earth in a different bodythat of an old Chinese man (James Hong). Roy, for his part, looks like model Marisa Miller when the living see him.
The premise is a mix of Men in Black, Dead Like Me, and Ghost, but R.I.P.D. is nowhere near as satisfying as any of them. Walker makes a lackluster lead, his drive to get revenge against the man who murdered him and protect his wife petty compared to the need to stop the world's end. Plus, his wife is a totally two-dimensional figure of damsel in distress, making it impossible to get too tied up in her peril. The computer graphics are just as underdeveloped. With Deados wreaking destruction across Bostonwhich may be an unwelcome sight so soon after the horrendous tragedies that befell the Boston Marathonthe clearly CGI monsters have texture that's not quite right, pulling us out of this wacky world each time. There are also several leaps in logic that strain believabilityfor instance a battle over the end of the world and just these two RIPD officers are on the scene? How is that possible?
The wonderfully strange Mary-Louise Parker one of the stars of director Robert Schwentke's previous comic-strip adaptation, Red offers some much-needed edge, while Bridges merely turns up his gurning Rooster Cogburn act to 11, his eyes rolling north, his cheeks venturing east and west, his lower jaw dropping ever further into the deep south.
Overall, it's a directionless mess: too expensive for a B-movie, too grown-up for a kids' movie (funerals, bereavement and jokes about Steely Dan) and too infantile for everyone else. No wonder it died on its feet in the US.
Director Robert Schwentke can't get around the subpar CGI that makes his action sequences lack real-world weight, but he does make use of slow motion well, whether revealing the chaos unfolding around the just-killed Walker or narrowing in on a pivotal and badass moment of a gunfight. The emotional through line of the film is weak, bound to the dull Walker and his plot device wife. But the over-the-top performances by Bridges, Parker and even Kevin Bacon as a smirking corrupt cop kept me engaged, along with the rich weirdness of the film's world. All in all, I liked R.I.P.D., though I can't really recommend seeing it in theaters. It's a good diversion, but not a good movie.