‘R.I.P.D.’ movie review: Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds in Ghostbusters meets Men in Black


A recently slain cop is brought back to life to hunt undead criminals and take revenge on the man who killed him in R.I.P.D. (short for Rest in Peace Department), based on the Dark Horse comic. If you’re thinking that plot synopsis sounds familiar, yup, it’s almost exactly the same premise as Dead Heat, the 1988 Treat Williams-Joe Piscopo zombie classic.

That’s not it? Oh yeah, R.I.P.D. is also a near carbon copy of Men in Black, trading aliens for “deados”, people that have managed to cheat death and are now living amongst us undetected, only morphing into zombified, inhuman monsters when exposed to, uh, Indian food. Makes sense. 

When Boston police detective Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) is shot and killed by partner Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon), he finds himself in a kind of purgatory: the white-walled office of Proctor (Mary Louise-Parker), where he’s given a choice: continue on with his death, and take his chances up at the Pearly Gates, or serve a 100-year term with the R.I.P.D. and hunt down deados on Earth. 

The choice is clear, especially since Nick wants to see his wife Julia (Stephanie Szostak) again, and maybe find out just why his partner killed him, too. To show him the ropes in the R.I.P.D., there’s the gruff, ornery agent who “doesn’t work with a partner” – and whose characterization bears a striking resemblance to the Tommy Lee Jones role in Men in Black – Roy Pulsipher, played by Jeff Bridges.

Taking the appearance of Colonel Sanders, with the Southern-fried drawl of (go with it) Squidbillies’ Early Cuyler, Bridges is an absolute riot and single-handedly saves this thing from being a real drag. As the dont-take-me-seriously, misplaced Civil War-era Roy (short for Roicipherus), Bridges is a whole lotta fun here, even if he’s barely intelligible at times. 

While the film doesn’t really work as sci-fi, or action (action setpieces, surprisingly, are few and far between), Bridges helps to make it an almost-successful comedy (in fact, I laughed more during R.I.P.D. than most of 2013’s big budget comedies). Louise-Parker is also enjoyable as Proctor, and the film gets a lot of mileage from the avatars Nick and Roy take while on Earth (so, you know, they aren’t recognized): Roy is a gorgeous supermodel (played by Marisa Miller) and Nick is an elderly Chinese man (the inimitable James Hong). 

The monster stuff, on the other hand, doesn’t work at all; the deados start out as normal humans, then sniff some curry, and soon they’re… slightly larger, slightly uglier, completely CGI-ified zombie versions of their previous appearance. 

The CGI is so poor that we’re always aware that we’re watching a live-action cartoon, and it’s not like these are complex monsters that couldn’t be created using practical effects; these things are based on the appearance of live actors. It’s a curious, distracting decision. 

The film also fails to generate much interest in its cops vs. deados action scenes. The R.I.P.D. has special guns that can turn the baddies into ectoplasm, but the cops themselves can’t seem to die (well, I guess that makes sense – they’re already dead). Still, Roy and Nick fly around the screen like ragdolls while chasing down the deados, smashing through windows and falling hundreds of feet to the ground, and well… what do we care? We know they can’t be hurt. 

R.I.P.D. was put together by German director Robert Schwentke (The Time Traveller’s Wife, RED), from a script by Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi (Aeon Flux, Clash of the Titans). Formulaic to a fault, with that overt Men in Black vibe unmistakable, originality is a rare, rare find throughout the course of the film.

Still, it’s reasonably well put together for this kind of thing, fast paced and relatively short at a 95-minute running time. There may be nothing new going on here, but Bridges helps to keep things interesting and R.I.P.D. somehow manages not to wear out its welcome. 

Be sure to stick around through the credits for Bridges’ full rendition of The Better Man, an original song the star co-wrote with T-Bone Burnett.



Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

4 Responses

  1. Braindead Men in Black ripoff and one of the worst movie’s I’ve ever seen. 2.5 stars waaaayyyy too high for this rubbish

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