Schwentke’s ‘RIPD’ Borrows Lazily But is Over Quick

Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges in RIPD
RIPD © Universal Pictures

Regrettably, Robert Schwentke’s action comedy RIPD is not about the Rhode Island Police Department. That concept would have been much more engaging than the actual basis for this mediocre movie written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi.

So what do the film’s titular initials stand for? They’re the name of a covert law enforcement unit called the “Rest In Peace Department,” comprised of cops who die in the line of duty. Disguised as harmless civilians, these officers walk the Earth again for a unique purpose: to capture rogue spirits and bring them to the other side.

The RIPD’s newest recruit is Nick (Ryan Reynolds) a cop gunned down during a drug bust. Since Nick has done some things he’s not proud of, he’s offered the position to make spiritual amends. Of course, this greenhorn is partnered with a grumpy veteran lawman from the 1800s named Roy (Jeff Bridges). Roy is a loner with zero interest in training a partner, which is just fine, because Nick thinks that he’s too good for Roy’s help anyway. After a series of humorous scuffles however, they realize that they’ll need to cooperate to stop a villain (Kevin Bacon) from bringing about the end of days.

Instead of being creative with an amusing premise, the filmmakers for RIPD disappoint by lazily ripping off Men in Black and Ghostbusters. The secret supernatural crime fighting organization piece as well as the mismatched partners is totally MiB. Roy is even Southern and hard to understand just like Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Plus, their misadventures in capturing ghosts and the apocalyptic showdown at the end borrow heavily from Ghostbusters. That said, it’s too bad that the humor in RIPD doesn’t come close to the hilarity of either picture.

Jeff Bridges as Roy in RIPD
Jeff Bridges as Roy in RIPD © Universal Pictures

Unfortunately this movie’s few attempts to innovate aren’t much better. Schwentke tries to place his camera at weird angles and twist it upside down during a couple chases, which only distracts you from the action. The slow-mo sequences look okay in 3D, but the only time the extra dimension feels truly worthwhile is when you wish it wouldn’t. Characters spitting chunks of food in your face isn’t particularly enjoyable or appetizing.

At least Jeff Bridges rewards viewers by playing gruff, grizzled cowboys like Roy with great gusto. The enthusiasm with which he portrays his character in RIPD is eerily similar to his jovial embodiment of the trigger-happy lawman Rooster Cogburn in 2010’s True Grit. Roy is entertaining because he’s more perverse than you’d expect, yet strangely sensitive. As a character he can be annoying though, due to how difficult he is to comprehend. His sometimes unintelligible voice sounds like Foghorn Leghorn with a frog in his throat.

Thankfully, Bridges has an odd chemistry with Reynolds that’s comedically decent. Although their quips won’t knock your socks off, they’ll still get you chuckling. At points however, RIPD seems confused about how far it should go with humor, choosing to stay on a safe PG-13 path in scenes where R-rated lines would be better. This hesitance made more sense after I learned from an actor who worked on the film, that it wasn’t supposed to be funny originally; the schtick was added during reshoots.

If there’s one good thing about this flick though, it’s that it’s short, well-paced and over quickly. Far from the best movie of the year, yet certainly not the worst. See it only if you have no other options at the theater.

✭✭ ½

Evan Crean

Hello! My name is Evan Crean. By day I work for a marketing agency, but by night, I’m a film critic based in Boston, MA who has been at it since 2009. I have written hundreds of movie reviews and celebrity interviews for Starpulse.com. I have also contributed pieces to NewEnglandFilm.com. In addition to publishing short form work, I am a co-author of the book Your ’80s Movie Guide to Better Living, which is available on CreateSpace and Amazon. On top of writing, I co-host and edit the weekly film podcast Spoilerpiece Theatre with two other Boston film critics. I’m a founding member and the current treasurer for the Boston Online Film Critics Association as well. Lastly, I’m the marketing director and a contributor to Boston Reel, a site dedicated to Boston’s independent film culture. Have any questions or comments about my work? Please feel free to email me (Evan Crean) at: ecrean AT reelrecon DOT COM .

7 thoughts on “Schwentke’s ‘RIPD’ Borrows Lazily But is Over Quick

  • July 26, 2013 at 12:30 pm
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    As you’ve said, it’s not the worst thing you’ve seen all year, but it is dull and aimless. However, I had a wee-bit of fun and that was enough for me to satisfied with. Good review Evan.

    • July 26, 2013 at 2:00 pm
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      Thanks Dan! I’m glad I haven’t seen Lone Ranger yet since most people have said that was way worse than RIPD.

  • July 29, 2013 at 11:32 am
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    This is one of those cases where I’m going to rely on your review and skip this. I’ve heard nothing but bad things and your review confirms it. Thanks for taking the bullet on this one! 🙂

    • July 29, 2013 at 2:32 pm
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      Glad I could take one for the team haha. Thanks for reading Mark!

  • July 31, 2013 at 11:58 am
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    I see free streaming watch all over this movie. I love me some Bridges but not more than the $16 bucks I would spend on a movie ticket and some popcorn to watch this one.

    • July 31, 2013 at 3:09 pm
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      Yes. See it for free or not at all haha. Thanks for reading!

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