You Must Remember This

You Must Remember This

Friday, 23 August 2013


"Say what you want about the tenets of The Lone Ranger, dude, at least it's an ethos."

RIPD, the newest big-budget adaptation of an obscure comic book series, sounds like a concept being sold on its title. Based on the trailer, it looks like a hodgepodge of MIB and Ghostbusters, but fails to be much more than derivative schlock.

Starring Ryan Reynolds as a blander, less attitudinal version of Will Smith as a good cop in a bad city, yadda, yadda, yadda. No offense to the guy - he's certainly likeable enough - but after Blade: Trinity, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Green Lantern, and now this, it might be best to step away from the superhero banquet. In any case, Reynolds' protagonist, Nick Walker, is clearly doomed from the off: cute French wife, unyielding integrity. Plus his corrupt cop partner is played by Kevin Bacon - smug, leather jacket, a performance straight out those EE adverts - who is suspicious in exactly the same way as the shady best mate from Ghost (more on that later).

There's an intriguing moment involving a newly-planted orange tree in Nick's garden, covering the location of untraceable gold stolen off a bust; oranges, as we all know from The Godfather, being the symbol of encroaching death... Then again, it's difficult to give the script - by Clash of the Titans writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi - that much credit. This isn't the sort of film that really goes in for symbolism, or subtlety, or, well, anything really.

Anyway, Nick gets offed by his partner, walks through a frozen bullet-time-style explosion before ascending into a vortex in the sky. Then, in the space of five minutes, he meets his new commanding officer, Mildred Proctor (an endearingly weird but otherwise wasted Mary-Louise Parker), enlisted into the RIPD, and meets his new partner, former Wild West Marshall Roy Pulsifer AKA Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn as Agent K. The word "dead" barely gets a look in, let alone a chance for the audience to ground themselves in this world.

Before we know it, we're off on a whistle-top procedural tour: taking down Deados (spirits of the damned that pose as human and only become monstrous when confronted with the menu from your local curry house), reveling in our heroes invulnerability and the fact everyone else sees them as an old Asian guy and blonde swimsuit model (quirky but hardly low-key).

This is a Looney Tunes world where elevators get catapulted out of their shafts, smashing down on rooftops, and everybody walks away unscathed, a world where Pulsifer gets to comment on Nick's "very impressive crumple zone". It's all action without purpose, light banter, light entertainment - even Pulsifer, portrayed with commendable commitment by Jeff Bridges, is just a vehicle for wisecracks (Zach Galfianakis was originally cast in the role). There are touches of Dylan Dog, Constantine, and a throwaway, almost cameo appearance by Robert Knepper, who was, for years, one of the best things about the TV show Prison Break.

It's toothless, unfocused, and unnecessarily coincidental (the gold buried under Nick's tree just happens to tie in with the villain's grand scheme). The partners quarrel about "modern bullets" and having your corpse abused by coyotes, but there's a total disconnect: RIPD is just about self aware enough to hold the attention, but does nothing with it once it has it. There's crazy physics, fever dream logic, and plot twists ripped straight from The Avengers.

RIPD has no sense of its own identity - it's an IKEA furniture film, a flat-pack premise assembled bu suits. It doesn't know whether it wants to be Beeteljuice - a brief shot of monsters sat on a bench in police station booking seems a less morbidly imaginative version of the waiting room from Tim Burton's sixth or seventh best film (by my count) - or Ghost (there's a less saccharine but less well-earned version of the Whoopi Goldberg/Demi Moore dance).

Still, this is MIB 3 territory - all the box tick appeal, none of the originality: it touches on every major blockbuster in recent years. Even the trailer for the new Percy Jackson gets a look-in, storm clouds massing overhead, etc. It's perhaps not surprising then that RIPD seems set to make back less than half its budget.

At "only" $130 million, it's less damaging a blow than either John Carter or Battleship (Lone Ranger looks like it might, at least, break even), but it's yet another sign that the current Hollywood system is unsustainable. I'm not an accountant, but it seems like a return to the mid-range budget might be in order - it's possible to make a good film for $50 million, right? *sarcasm* - as well as a willingness to take more interesting risks. Heck, give Rian Johnson a chance to make his own Inception - there's no way that doesn't make a mint.

Verdict: RIPD invests money and some talented actors on a shamelessly derivative premise. A Frankenstein's Monster of a film sewn together with goodwill and slow-mo, for the filmic equivalent of being in limbo, RIPD gets 3/10.

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