I recently moved back to my hometown, within walking distance of a cheap movie theater. While this is a great amenity for anyone who likes movies, it also presents a conundrum for the ever-entertainment-seeking First Worlder. It turns the cinema into a really big TV set. “Maaaan, there’s nothing on… ugh god, I don’t wanna get up though… ughhhh FINE, I’ll watch MONEY TALKS.” So in this situation, sometimes you’ll walk to the cinema, realize you’ve actually seen everything that’s playing that you wanted to see, and you end up seeing…
Sometimes I like movies that are near-universally panned. It happens! I recently rewatched HUDSON HAWK and found it as amusing as it was when I was ten. Sure, it’s the Big Kiss-Ass Bruno Muggin’ show, but a decade and change of Bruce Willis grumpily phoning in his parts made me appreciative of a time when he tried to make us smile and laugh with a roguish grin and a blue collar Joisey attitude.
There is some phoning in happening in R.I.P.D. as well, but R.I.P.D. only wishes it had HUDSON HAWK’s charm and ability to make lazy shit work!
Ryan Reynolds is a cop who is feeling bad about “confiscating” some gold from some crackheads. Like weird, golden tablet fragments with Sumerian or some shit on them type of gold. Not the gaudy rapper chains kind. His buddy Kevin Bacon knows a guy who’ll cut ‘em a good deal on the stuff, but Ryan’s having a change of heart. He gives his shards back to Bacon, and says he won’t rat on him. Not good enough for Hollow Man, though! During a drug raid, Bacon shoots Reynolds dead and his soul ascends to Judgment.
BUT WAIT! He wakes up in a small interogation room, where Mary-Louise Parker informs him that, rather than go to Hell (for stealing some gold?) he can work off his soul debt or whatever with the Rest In Piece Department. These death cops round up souls that somehow escaped Judgment and run around Earth after their time. These wayward souls are called “deados” and live near-normal lives, besides the fact that their “rotten souls” fuck shit up around them. Shit breaks, plants wilt, etc. Reynolds is partnered up with Old West Marshall Jeff Bridges, who basically plays his character as Rooster Cogburn if he were a wacky neighbor on Everybody Loves Raymond.
Bridges is phoning his performance in, Reynolds is looking for his charger. When he dies and subsequently makes his way through the time-frozen warehouse shootout he died at, he apparently can’t emote further than a vaguely confused look that actually does seem to indicate he doesn’t know where his charger is. The afterlife is real bro! Make a different face!
A possibly fun conceit the movie posits, is that R.I.P.D. agents have randomized avatar bodies, so the living don’t suddenly see a deceased loved one chasing a CGI troll down the street. Bridges’ Avatar is model Marissa Miller, Reynolds’ is fucking JAMES HONG. In the unfortunately brief interludes in which Reynolds is replaced with Hong, the guy displays a charm and warmth wholly absent from this movie otherwise. Director Robert Schwentke apparently had no idea what to do with the idea of the avatars. You’d think that this incongruous duo (supermodel + elderly Chinese man) would be somewhat played for laughs, right? This happens once, as a deado throws Bridges into traffic and he gets squashed against a bus windshield. The bus driver sees a busty, statuesque blonde scrape herself off his vehicle and get back in the fray. To be honest, there are three other moments where the avatar is given some face-time, but I do not count these as jokes because playing “Let’s Get It On” while the camera slowly pans around/dollies over Miller’s body while passers-by make drooly faces does not a joke make. Otherwise, cuts to the avatars happen at random, seconds-long intervals just to remind the audience that OH YEAH PEOPLE DON’T SEE ‘EM LIKE WE SEE ‘EM
If you thought it weird that they’d get Kevin Bacon as the guy who kills the hero in the first act, do not worry! He is actually a deado and the main villain! Huh? But how come shit never broke/wilted around him? Oh there are some talismans that are said to contain a deado’s soul rot! OF COURSE! His grandmother’s St. Christopher medal that he always wears! This is all information relayed to the audience in the same span of time it took you to read the last few sentences, all immediately after Bacon’s intentions are revealed.
Comparisons to MEN IN BLACK were trotted out almost immediately with the first trailer, but this movie isn’t even MIB2. The deados are shown few and far between, and their designs are nonsensical and boring. Apparently, escaping Judgment turns you into a weird CGI ogre man/woman, but you can suppress it, but stuff breaks and wilts around, but you reveal your true, CGI self when sprinkled with cumin. There’s a weird BLADE RUNNER Voight/Kampff test scene where I simply could not understand what the hell was going on, although I was moderately amused at the perp being Prison Break’s Robert Knepper aka T-Bag. Note that this scene takes place before we know the deados are allergic to cumin, and you can literally just hold it under their noses and they’ll “pop”, as the movie calls it. I guess we just needed more unfunny, embarrassing banter to fill this 96 minute movie! I will concede that that is a good running time.
Good on you, R.I.P.D. You have a good running time.