Published Jul 18, 2013Myriad comic books borrow liberally from film for inspiration; the problem arises when Hollywood comes calling and wants to turn your cinema-minded book back into a feature film.
This is the plight of R.I.P.D. (short for Rest in Peace Department), the latest obscure comic title to receive the blockbuster treatment. It's easy to pick the influences: elements of Robocop, Ghostbusters and especially Men In Black are prominently on display in this tale of supernatural law enforcement.
Ryan Reynolds stars as Detective Nick Walker, a Boston City Police officer double-crossed by his partner (Kevin Bacon) over some shady dealings with evidence found at a crime scene. On his way to heaven for judgment, he's intercepted by the R.I.P.D., helmed by Mary-Louise Parker.
In an effort to curry favour with "the big guy," he agrees to help catch renegade spirits on Earth unwilling to move on to the afterlife. He's teamed with veteran Roy Pulsipher (a game Jeff Bridges), who's been busting ghouls since the 1800s, and the pair soon uncovers a nefarious plot to halt the ascension of souls to heaven.
There's very little in R.I.P.D. we haven't seen before: the plot is boilerplate buddy-cop, with some spooks thrown in for good measure. Said apparitions aren't at all interesting looking, essentially being vaguely grotesque versions of their human selves, and the stakes never feel high, or the action risky.
However, RED director Robert Schwentke knows how to play to his actors' strengths, deploying the idealized version of each star into this world. There's Reynolds' smart-assed sarcasm, the loveably askew authority figure Parker's perfected on too many seasons of Weeds and Bridges, whose Rooster Cogburn character from the True Grit remake is essentially dropped into this oddly enjoyable film.
The chemistry between the cast is great. Nick and Roy aren't visible to the living, appearing instead in their avatar forms: a busty blonde for Roy and an old Chinese man (played by veteran character actor James Hong) for Nick. It's a minor plot point, but it's used for laughs throughout the majority of the film and somehow doesn't get old.
It's this playful nature of R.I.P.D. that ultimately wins out, making it the Men in Black sequel we never knew we wanted. (Universal)