Adapted from a series of comics, ‘R.I.P.D.’ (an acronym for Rest In Peace Department) is an otherworldly action adventure in a similar vein to ‘Men In Black’, which pairs a grizzled veteran and a gung-ho newcomer in a hunt for earthbound monsters.
The trajectory of the central relationship from fractiousness to do-or-die camaraderie is achingly familiar.
So too is Ryan Reynolds’s wise-cracking schtick as the cocksure new pretender, while Oscar winner Jeff Bridges chews limp dialogue like tobacco as a 19th century US Marshal whose moral compass is misaligned with the modern world.
“In my day, I bought love by the hour,” he grizzles with a twinkle in his eye.
While ‘Men In Black’ enhanced the buddy comedy with outrageous action set pieces, Robert Schwentke’s film is woefully underpowered in the visual effects department.
The souls – known affectionately as “Deados” – take on the guise of humans but when they are unmasked by the R.I.P.D., they metamorphose into hideously deformed creatures that have to be shot in the head in order to move into the afterlife and restore the cosmic balance.
It’s an excuse for a miasma of unrealistic digital splatter, which fails to get the pulse racing.
Boston Detectives Nick Walker (Reynolds) and Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon) steal gold bullion from a high-profile drugs bust. Nick hides his share under an orange tree as an investment for his wife Julia (Stephanie Szostak), then gets cold feet and tells Bobby he intends to return the booty to the evidence room.
At a subsequent raid, Bobby murders Nick to guarantee his silence. As his soul ascends to final judgement, Nick takes a detour to the Boston division of R.I.P.D., where director Mildred Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker) enlists him for a 100-year tour of duty capturing nefarious spirits that have failed to cross over.
Nick is partnered with US Marshal Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges), who adopts a no-nonsense shoot-first approach to his work. The veteran and protege initially clash, but then gradually form a tender bond as they become embroiled in a far bigger case involving the stolen gold.
‘R.I.P.D.’ is almost as lifeless as the creatures Roy and Nick have to apprehend. Screen chemistry between the leads fails to convince, punchlines fall flat and the numerous pursuits of their prey are lacklustre.
Bridges injects impishness into his two-dimensional character, milking laughs as he recalls the day he ascended after “watching a bunch of coyotes pick my carcass clean and drag my bones off into a cave.”
However, Reynolds seems ill at ease while Bacon glowers as the tepid pantomime villain, and Schwentke’s unimaginative direction is the final nail in the film’s coffin.
Star Rating: 2/5