R.I.P.D.

R.I.P.D. is basically Men in Black crossed with True Grit, crossed with Power Rangers. Sadly, despite some fun dialogue and some clever ideas and great visuals, it’s not all that good. Mainly that’s because the writers forgot to put in interesting characters.

To have any hope of liking R.I.P.D., you ought to have enjoyed:
any Men in Black movie
Blade 3
The Other Guys
The Three Stooges

What with the great effects and the good actors, it’s a shame that R.I.P.D. isn’t any more enjoyable than a bland sandwich without mayo.

Here’s a trailer:

Doesn’t that look fun?

The deets:

Released July 19, 2013

Written by Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi, and David Dobkin. Based on the comic by Peter M. Lenkov

Directed by Robert Schwentke

Starring Mary Louise Parker, Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Stephanie Szostak, Kevin Bacon, Robert Knepper, Marissa Miller, and James Hong

Rated: PG-13

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Story

Nick (Reynolds) is a cop who perishes in a firefight at the beginning of R.I.P.D. He is immediately taken to some purgatory-like place whose mission is to keep the bad lingering spirits of the dead from taking over the world of the living. They do this with some interesting technology and with some interesting constraints and rules.

First off, they’re dead. Apparently this means that being beat up and getting hit by a bus hurt, but just don’t kill you. Second, they use weapons, but without any interesting explanation as to what these weapons are and why they do what they do. Third, the bad spirits can physically transform into big, ugly creatures that can do actual damage to the real world. Fourth-

I’ll stop there. It gets more and more absurd as you go along thinking. This isn’t a thinking movie.

Nick is assigned a new partner named Roy (Bridges). They answer to Proctor (Parker). She is dry of humor and is actually pretty humorless.

Roy is basically Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn, but with more humor. Sadly, the humor just seems too carefully written– it doesn’t seem natural. Instead, it is simply delivered because it’s on the page.

Then you have Hayes (Bacon), who is a truly bad guy. Nick and Roy have to stop Hayes before Hayes unleashes a terrible evil which will destroy the world. At the same time, Nick has to deal with his beloved slowly making her way into danger as she is taken advantage of in her grief.

Critique

Critiquing R.I.P.D. is pretty simple. It’s far too much like Men in Black without refreshing the tropes and cleverness and humor. The characters have nothing interesting at all about them, which is a shame, because Reynolds, Parker, and Bridges are all good actors. The dialogue is intermittently funny, but is usually groan-worthy because we know exactly what’s going to be said when it comes to zingers.

This isn’t a bad movie, but it’s certainly hard to understand why such an obvious retread of Men in Black was found to be necessary.

For a movie about dead but not really dead cops who mete out vigilante justice, R.I.P.D. is strangely lifeless.

Content warnings: Comic/fantastic violence throughout, some mild swearing.

Writing: 2          Acting: 3.5          Overall: 2.5

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Red 2

Red 2 is a couple hours of pretty enjoyable entertainment. But you have to be careful to not stop and think too much about these characters, as they don’t really make any sense at all.

You will probably like Red 2 if you enjoyed:
Red
Dumb and Dumber
Lethal Weapon 2 and 3
Pacific Rim

If you don’t like movies that use good actors in wasted roles and that wink at the audience, Red 2 is probably not for you.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released July 19, 2013

Written by John Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Warren Ellis, and Cully Hammer. Based on the comics.

Directed by Dean Parisot

Starring Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, Neal McDonough, David Thewlis, and Brian Cox

Rated: PG-13

*     *     *     *     *

Story

Frank Moses (Willis) has been out of the spy game for a while now, trying to settle down and make a life with Sarah (Parker). Out shopping, they run into Marvin (Malkovich), who informs Frank that somebody has uncovered Marvin and Frank’s participation in something called Operation Nightshade and now people are gunning for them in order to find a nuke hidden in Moscow.

To stay alive, Marvin and Frank will have to team up with some of their former cronies and find the nuke before anyone else. In the meantime, the best assassin in the world, Han (Lee), is after them and Victoria (Mirren) has also been asked to take them out. Sarah insists she wants to join Frank and Marvin on their journey, as she is clearly bored by the life she and Frank have been living, but along comes Katja (Zeta-Jones), a former flame of Moses, who might be able to help Frank and Marvin get out of the fix they’re in.

So Frank, Marvin, and the rest have to find the scientist who invented the nuke and who might know were it is. The problem is that this scientist has been locked up for more than 32 years. This is Bailey (Hopkins), and he is clearly somewhat off his rocker.

Along this seasoned group goes, firing countless bullets at all takers and basically doing their best to steamroll through all the baddies. Loyalties will be tested, as will love.

Critique

For all the hyperactivity of the fight scenes and enthusiastic effort of the players, Red 2 feels somewhat flat and generally like a bunch of people playing in the same sandbox without much direction or leadership. It feels as if the entertaining scenes were conceived in a vacuum and story was written to try to string these scenes together.

You can almost imagine the writers and director having a conversation. “Okay, so Sarah’s kind of a ditz, so we need a scene where her ditziness messes things up. Oh yeah, and also she needs to be clueless about guns.”

“Good one! Hey, let’s also have Victoria kick everyone’s ass and then deliver a zinger of a one-liner. ”

“Nice! Of course, we also need to see Moses and Marvin have plenty of banter and Moses needs to be in some awkward situations between his current love and his former flame. Willis can just mug here.”

“Good plan!”

So the story is decidedly formulaic, but where The Heat used its characters to freshen up the formula and bring sharp, intelligent dialogue into the scenes, Red 2′s dialogue is too often totally predictable and far too self-aware– winking at the audience as we are all in on the joke that these are old people delivering lines that a younger tough would usually deliver.

All of that said, here we also have consummate actors doing great work and having a lot of fun. Helen Mirren is a joy to watch, with her diminutive frame and sophisticated bearing, as she beats the tar out of people and seems to enjoy it. Malkovich steals every scene he’s in with manic energy and great timing. Zeta-Jones is a little underused; as it seems that her character is a plot device only. Hopkins has a great time and is fun to watch, although his character makes zero sense if you stop and think about him. And Bruce Willis, sadly, phones a lot of his scenes in, although there are a couple of scenes where we get to see his comedic timing.

The biggest tragedy is the casting of Mary-Louise Parker as the too-often clueless and flighty Sarah. Sarah gets far too little to do, and when she does do something right, it makes absolutely no sense– we don’t understand how she knew to do what she did. Parker is better than this role.

All in all, Red 2 is somewhat better than its predecessor, but is still a little flat, a little too silly.

Content warnings: Plenty of explosive violence and a goodly amount of salty language.

Writing: 3          Acting: 4.5          Overall: 3

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