The one thing about R.I.P.D that needs to be said is that it’s not the worst film in the world. Far from it. The pre-release buzz, especially in a year where big budget films are flopping all around us, has been that of it being just another awful film that is about to lose a ton of money. It’s being labeled the worst film of the year, etc, and the final proof that Ryan Reynolds isn’t a movie star. While the latter may be true R.I.P.D isn’t the worst film of the year, century, decade or ever. It’s far from it, actually.
That’s not to mean it’s good, either. In fact it’s pretty bad … it’s just not awful.
It’s a fairly intriguing premise. Nick (Ryan Reynolds) is a Boston cop who’s a bit on the dirty side. He’s starting to feel remorseful, though, and his ex-partner (Kevin Bacon) has a problem with that. He’s a true crooked cop, not the one with the heart of gold like Nick, and opts to kill Nick during a raid on a drug dealer. Nick doesn’t wind up being dead, though. He’s given a chance to work for the Rest in Peace Department to atone for his sins by being a lawman for the undead world. Partnered with a cowboy from the Wild West (Jeff Bridges), we follow Nick as he has to save the world from the Apocalypse.
If the plot sounds familiar it’s because this is a film that’s essentially a re-imagining of Men in Black but with the undead instead of aliens. Unfortunately the film doesn’t have a lot of the good qualities of that film, starting with its main star. The film does have an intriguing premise, though, enough to make the first act fairly engaging.
The concept of Nick trying to let go of his mortal life, which his partner advises him to do, while he learns this world of “deados” who won’t leave the mortal coil could make for a great film. It’d make for a better television series, most likely, but as a film there’s enough out there to be the start of a John Carpenter style police procedural/action film. There’s enough in this that Nick becoming a undead police officer, with his wacky partner, could be something special.
The setup is there but the execution is sloppy, mainly because it has a dull story, uninspired dialogue and nothing much to distinguish it from every other generic action film. And a lot of it has to do with Ryan Reynolds just not quite having presence enough to make the film feel bigger with his presence.
Ryan Reynolds has always been pushed as a big action star and for good reason: he looks like he should be starring in big budget action films every summer. He’s good lucking, always in tremendous shape and has a good comedic presence as well. If there was a “movie star draft” based on potential alone he’d be a high first rounder, for sure, just based on everything he brings to the table. If you wanted to make a movie star Ryan Reynolds would be the guy you’d be drooling over if you were a movie star scout; he’s got everything you’d want in a movie star (on paper) and yet … he’s never really crossed the line to become one.
And R.I.P.D needs a movie star in the lead, not just another actor, which is a big chunk of its problems.
Reynolds just doesn’t have that presence one needs to carry a film like this. That’s the difference between this and Men in Black, which is about as good in overall quality. Will Smith’s ability to be a massive movie star and bring his presence to the role is what turned that film into something that’s been his biggest franchise. One imagines that Reynolds agreed to do the film because of the same reasons, of course, but he just doesn’t quite have the big presence to be a movie star of the magnitude required to carry a film like this. He’s a good actor but he’s not a movie star; if there ever was a part designed to showcase Reynolds taking that next step and becoming a movie star R.I.P.D would be it.
Unfortunately it would appear he doesn’t and as such the film doesn’t quite fire off without it. This is a film that needs Reynolds to be that guy because it needs someone to elevate its rather shoddy material. The film’s inherent flaws of script and structure come out because there isn’t someone in the lead with enough star power to make us forgive it. The flaws of this film become exposed because Reynolds doesn’t have that Will Smith ability to make us forget about them.
Ultimately R.I.P.D winds up as a star vehicle needing a star … and has an actor in the lead.
Director: Robert Schwentke Writers: Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi, based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name Notable Cast: Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephanie Szostak
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.