I don’t usually review films I’ve worked on but this summer R.I.P.D has been beaten up and spat on like an undersized infant in NHS glasses, so I figured someone had to come to its rescue. In its own little way it’s not half bad and it has one secret weapon that takes it to its own plain of silliness.
Let’s get straight to the crux, if you’ve seen the trailers or heard the premise then you will think what everyone else has thought: this is Men In Black… with zombies. And, sadly, you would be right as there is little attempt to steer away from that franchise. Ryan Reynolds plays a recently murdered cop who, instead of being whisked away to judgement, is recruited to join a team of un-dead police officers with the groan-worthy name Rest In Peace Department (the film actually acknowledge this). He is assigned a grouchy old partner and together they hunt down “deados” – dead people who refuse to move on to the afterlife.
There is more to the plot, however the film doesn’t get too bogged down by it. Mainly the story is just thrown away with a few lines of exposition before getting on with the next set piece. The movie whips along at a fair old pace with director Robert Schwentke keeping thing moving along pretty quickly. Schwentke isn’t a visual master, indeed his main trait seems to be an awful lot of crash-zooms. But, he does provide some nice moments and there’s a particularly beautiful one just after Reynolds is murdered. As all the other cops and robbers are frozen in time, Reynolds wanders around the action scene that killed him; explosions, bullets and bodies suspended all about him, as if in formaldehyde. This sequence was not completely done using CG either, which makes it all the more effective. Also, the action scenes are clearly shot and well choreographed. This kind of thing seems to be making a comeback in mainstream cinema at last.
That’s more than can be said about the 3D, which does take advantage of the depth of the compositions but it mainly looks incredibly murky and jittery. Mind you, this could well have been the cinema I was in. Yeah, I’m talking about you Cineworld, Shaftesbury Avenue. For the first ten minutes they hadn’t even switched the projector to Stereo so the image was doubled up, even with the glasses on.
Schwentke also gives time to developing characters – a husband missing his wife from the afterlife has been done before, but it’s done with sincerity and sweetness. There is an underlying sadness to all the R.I.P.D officers as their first duty is always to go to their own funerals. However, the film doesn’t distance itself from Men In Black enough. The offices of the Rest In Peace Dept. look too much like an alternative MIB office, they have wacky guns like the men in black, there are secret rooms and exits that come out into our world via run down shops and the music could be straight from Sonnefield’s movies. It’s a real pity, because if they had tried harder for a different aesthetic, it might have felt fresher all over.
All is not lost however. It’s time for the secret weapon. Okay it’s not secret at all, he’s right up there on the poster – Jeff Fucking Bridges. He is brilliant in this. Of course he seems to be playing an un-dead version of Rooster Cogburn from True Grit, seemingly uncaring as to whether he is undermining his Oscar nominated performance or not. He constantly has something to say, mostly useless wisdoms about how to do the job with curry sauce or how he died or some such, and Reynolds desperately wants him to shut up. But shut up he doesn’t, he plays the squeeze box, sings songs, pines after his lost hat and talks relentlessly about his funeral; which was basically his corpse being eaten by coyotes in the desert. The greatest moment is when Bridges, almost in tears, describes watching one of the coyotes having sex with his skull (“both eyes”) as if it is a great tragedy. It is a mad-as-birds performance, a lawman who had spent too much time in his own company, driven slightly bonkers by the shock of being dead and still having to serve justice hundreds of years later.
There are other good jokes in there, but I won’t spoil them. Mary Louise Parker also has fun too, playing the Rip Torn role. Ah! See again: it continually fails to escape its Men In Black rip-off trappings, and that is it’s fatal flaw. I mean those films weren’t that good in the first place, so who wants to see a copy of them? However, I say look past that and you have an entertaining and silly popcorn movie with a magnificently unhinged performance by Jeff Bridges. That last line – unhinged performance by Jeff Bridges: surely enough of a reason to watch it when it turns up on Channel Five in a couple of years, sad, alone and unloved, except by me.