Somehow the adaptation of the Dark Horse Comics series, R.I.P.D., came and went last year with little fanfare and plenty of negative reviews. Did the critics simply not understand the film? Most seemed lazy and dismissed it as a Men in Black knockoff. Admittedly it’s a good film, not a great film, yet it has so much going for it that you may want to check it out now that it’s out on Blu-ray and DVD.
R.I.P.D. stands for the Rest in Peace Department. Like the Men in Black, this worldwide squad tries to keep the peace between our world and their world. That hidden world has simple rules: when you die you go to heaven or hell, but sometimes the dead get caught in between. It’s up to R.I.P.D. to track down those in-between souls. It sounds serious but it’s mainly all comic book fun and over-the-top action movie antics.
R.I.P.D. has the feel in parts of several classic movies about ghosts and “hidden worlds behind our world,” like Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice, Ghost Rider, and yes, Men in Black. But it’s not as great as any of these. It also has a dramatic thread from movies like The Crow, Always, and City of Angels. But it’s not a drama and only touches on the seriousness of what is at stake for the characters in the story. Yet it’s worth watching for some standout components that make for a fun rental.
If you ever wanted to see a live-action Yosemite Sam, you can see what that would be like with Jeff Bridges’ performance as Roy Pulsiphur, an undead ex-U.S. Marshall and Civil War soldier. Bridges completely immerses himself in this Old West coot and the result is another classic and unique Bridges performance. (How the heck does he manage to drive his car side-saddle?). There’s definitely some Sam Elliott inspiration here. Green Lantern star Ryan Reynolds plays Nick, a cop who is killed on duty as a Boston police officer. It may be Reynolds’ best film performance as he, too, is believable as an undead cop in this strange otherworld. Bridges and Reynolds have some strange chemistry, which amounts for some good buddy cop moments.
But Roy and Nick don’t appear to the rest of the world as Bridges and Reynolds. Roy appears as a blonde model (played by Victoria Secret model Marisa Miller) and Nick as an older Chinese detective (played by classic character actor James Hong, who might have more TV and movie appearances than any other living person). You just can’t get enough seeing the “avatars” of the duo edited in and out of scenes, used to the best comedic advantage.
You then have Kevin Bacon as Nick’s original partner Hayes, the film’s villain. Hayes is a Bacon character just like fans want, full of his trademark smirk coupled with that Bacon charm. Mary-Louise Parker brings in her deadpan quirky character from the R.E.D. film series to add another hilarious performance to her portfolio.
Some of the special effects are top quality, including a sideways tornado-like rift that rips apart Boston. The movie is full of classic 1980s style car chases. If there is something lacking, it is the monsters the undead morph into. Yes, Men in Black did that a lot better.
The soundtrack is as good as its gets, by Christophe Beck (Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, R.E.D., Frozen, Edge of Tomorrow). Two songs are standouts, too, Konichiwa Bitches, by Trentemøller Remix, and The Better Man, a Western song with a Johnny Cash vibe written by Bridges and T Bone Burnett and performed by Bridges.
Perhaps if you spend $130 million to make a movie, it needs a finer edit, better direction, a less amalgamated story, or even better marketing. R.I.P.D. pulled in less than $34 million at the box office. Was it too expensive for its B-movie premise? Whatever the reason that keeps R.I.P.D. from being a great film, see it for Bridges’ performance alone. It’s too much fun to pass up.