The DVD Autopsy: R.I.P.D.

The DVD Autopsy: R.I.P.D.

This was probably the worst release of summer. A dozen years in development, and a $130 million budget, led to only a few weeks in theaters and a miserable B.O. return. I carve into this disc to look for signs of death.




Among those titles which landed with a thud this summer few cratered nearly as bad as this misfire from Universal. A big name cast, hot new director Robert Schwentke, and an immense budget should have delivered a quality effort. What this became was a morass of oversized sets and a flood of computer imagery with little sense to the storyline. Probably the fact that this came off like a Men In Black retread was more than a small factor.

Another issue was casting. Ryan Reynolds is at least known as a capable comedic performer, but his inclusion here is curious as he spends his time in a sour, belligerent attitude. Why take the comedic performer and cast him as a mope? A second issue is the writing team brought in to adapt the graphic novel, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. The buddy-scribes share a checkered past with titles such as Clash of the Titans, Aeon Flux, and The Tuxedo littering their resume.

The theme of this column makes it impossible to avoid lapsing into the film critic practice of using retread puns in reference to a film’s title --however -- since R.I.P.D. was DOA in theaters it begs to be opened up on the coroner table to find the cause of death.





00:00:35 Septic Introduction
Immediately, a sign of weakness: We begin with a voice-over. When a film needs to hold our hand at the onset usually it means the creators realized their concept was about as clear as a pint of Guinness. Make that, as clear as an Irish car-bomb shooter.

00:00:59 Ruptured Visual
We watch Nick (Ryan Reynolds) chasing an animated figure who must weigh 500lbs, leaping around the city with Peter Parker-level dexterity. The CGI quality here is on par with those creatures seen in Jack The Giant Killer, or Van Helsing. We are served a dumptruck load of subtlety as the being stands sideways on a skyscraper and turns to flip Nick the middle finger, telling him to “Suck it!




00:01:10 Visual Adrenal Infusion
Reynolds gets flattened by a tumbling car, and he gets up looking only woozy. This serves as a metaphor of his current career status.

00:01:21 Exploratory Story Incision
A flashback opens this story, and an indicator to the haphazard nature of the storytelling comes from a title card:

> 3 OR 4 DAYS AGO . . .

Hey, close enough – as long as the script writers were in the ballpark I’m sure this will turn out fine.

00:02:24 Cranial Atrophy
We open at night, and Nick is burying some gold blocks under a plant. The next morning he and his overly affectionate wife Julia are lovers saying things about each other they should already know (she’s French, he’s a cop, ect.). Julia mentions the new tree in the yard. Nick may be pretty, but not particularly smart; he has planted an orange tree, in Boston.

00:03:17 Elevated Foreshadow Levels
Since they are shown to be the most “in love” couple on the planet cinematic rules dictate doing so in the first act indicates one of them must die.

00:05:14 Blunt Force Dialogue
At the precinct Ryan speaks with his partner, Bobby Hayes, (Kevin Bacon, a surprise since he was a no-show in film marketing). The guys discuss details of an arrest where they crookedly acquired the gold. This gives another expository discussion, with each telling the other details they already know since, you know, they were both THERE.

00:09:14 Invasive Pathos
The cops are dispatched to a warehouse to arrest a drug dealer, and during the infiltration Hayes corners Nick and shoots him dead off of a gangplank. Nick comes to and begins to perambulate the active crime scene frozen in time, loitering amongst the detonations.




00:11:31 Plot Stimulant
Nick slowly rises up to a swirling cloudy vortex, but then suddenly gets pulled into a sliding chair and arrives inside a spartan office where he meets Mary-Louise Parker, playing a police personnel peace officer Proctor. Nick is given the chance to avoid eternal judgment by serving on the Rest In Peace Department for 100 years and getting a gold star for the afterlife.
He shows his gratitude for eternal amnesty by becoming a moaning complainer.

00:15:32 Locale Anesthesia
The premise and the character set-ups have so far mimicked Men In Black, so why not also duplicate the familiarity of the headquarters teaming with odd characters?




00:15:49 Comedic Arrest
On the floor Proctor says R.I.P.D. has the best police force that ever died. We see a collection of beat officers, coppers, gumshoes, and the like. She explains how big their operation is in Boston:

PROCTOR:We’re the 3rd biggest precinct on the force.
NICK: What’s the biggest?
PROCTOR: Boca!

Get it? Because there’s so many retirees there who . .
(Ugh)

00:16:34 Exploratory Story Incision
Another cartoonish criminal gets loose inside the station but he becomes eliminated by Roycephus Pulsifer (Jeff Bridges), a former marshal from the 1800s. Roy has a romantic past with Proctor and after aggravating her she saddles the lawman with Nick as his new partner. Reynolds so far has appeared moody on screen (as though he is still bothered by what a mess Green Lantern became) and Bridges seems to be the the lone individual who is having the proper amount of fun with this material.

00:22:09 Comedic Arrest
At his funeral Nick confronts Julia, who has no idea who he is. This is when Roy explains the universe is “too smart” to allow him to reveal himself to the living. This means they appear different in public: Nick is bothered he has the visage of an elderly Chinaman (James Hong, of Blade Runner fame), while Roy struts around looking like Sports Illustrated bikini model Marisa Miller.




00:24:23 Continuity Failure
Nick explains to Roy how he was shot in the face by his partner . . . EXCEPT –
Earlier, as Nick was plunging to his death in slow motion, the close-up during decent revealed his undamaged mug.

00:26:26 Weakened Impulse
On their first case Roy explains the tactical process in sniffing out a “Dead-O” in an apartment building. I found his method less instructional than intuitive. I mean, I have zero afterlife-police training, but I probably would have zeroed in on the lone dwelling with slime oozing around the door frames.

00:36:43 Cauterized Plot Cavity
Speaking of Blade Runner, Roy uses a method of asking obtuse questions and eating Indian food to expose Dead-Os, much like the Voit-Kampf method of detecting replicants. As the story finally kicks in, the cops expose one Dead-O with gold pieces matching those Nick had stolen.

00:44:02 Iatrogenic Direction
No surprise when we learn Hayes is collecting all the gold pieces from the dead in order to build a death-portal reversing statue that will imperil all of mankind. As they stake out Hayes during an exchange they corner a suspect who transforms into the 500lb. goon from the opening scene.

By this point we have learned that what lens flares are to J.J. Abrams, the inverted camera tilt is to Robert Schwentke.

00:49:15 Comedic arrest
Not only does Nick appear different to those living in the general public, but so does his weapon.




00:59:15 Depleted Character Concentration
As bad an affair as this has been there was a possible redemption that the film could have been intended towards the youth market. That hope gets blasted out of the water as Roy details his death 100 years ago, with coyotes eating off his face before they proceeded to have sex with his skull.

01:01:24 Cliché Malignancy
Following the strict legal requirements of buddy-cop films the duo finds themselves suspended for deleterious actions, and once banished they decide to proceed with their investigation “off the books”.

01:07:44 Visual Adrenal Infusion
The third act is basically a tidal wave of CGI artificiality. Nick and Roy confront Bobby at his home, confiscate his haul of the gold pieces, and bring him in – after his home is supernaturally condemned digitally in a matter of moments. Then the station we see a collection of more of the cartoonish Dead-Os.




01:08:31 Continuity Failure
As Roy enters the evidence into lockup some of the pieces begin to mystically come together. Bobby, planning on this, says to another suspect, ”There’s one decent thing to being a Dead-O; we can’t hear certain frequencies so well.”

Nick tries to react, but the device sends a pulse wave throughout the station. This freezes the cops and allows Bobby and the Dead-Os to collect the gold pieces and flee. Problem – all of the cops are also dead entities, so how are they specifically affected by this event?

01:10:57 Adverse Cerebral Activity
The cops eventually get to street level and engage the CGI scourge in a gun fight. Most of the Dead-Os get away, despite choosing a less-than speedy vehicle for their escape.




01:14:57 Cliché Malignancy
Yes, just like that other supernatural cop movie the entire Earth is threatened, but this film also follows the pattern of contemporary blockbusters delivering rampant destruction of a major metropolis. When city blocks crumble, and cars rain down, after a short while the intensity evaporates.

01:16:41 Elevated Foreshadow Levels
In a case of arbitrary contrivance (with a strong dose of Deux Ex Machina) a news helicopter is randomly struck in midair by a massive street sweeper. The municipal vehicle then lands on the skyscraper perched directly above the golden monument the Dead-Os are constructing.

I’d Bet that was a totally random result which will have no impact on things later.

01:19:19 Cauterized Plot Cavity
Bobby has Julia delivered, and Nick arrives on the roof with Roy for the showdown. Bobby needs a human sacrifice for the monument to operate so he stabs Julia in the back, which cause her to bleed from her stomach (??). Her blood flows into the monument and the death portal begins to flow towards Earth. This does not follow a previous explanation where it was said the builder of this monument would need the blood of an enemy. Hey, with an entire city crumbling this kind of detail is easily overlooked.



01:24:46 Collapsed Climax
Nick battles with Bobby; meanwhile Roy lassos the street sweeper and (well, what do you know?!) he pulls it down, destroying the monument. Nick destroys Bobby. Julia also expires, but this means she finally gets to see Nick one last time. Then she awakens later in a hospital because Proctor stepped in to bring her back to life. Oh, and in case you were not aware, the Earth was also saved – although Boston is going to need some work.

01:25:37 Genetic Sequel Mutation
Following a disciplinary hearing Proctor announces that Nick is let off with a warning and Roy has another 50 years added to his service. So the guys are primed for an extremely unlikely continuation of their antics.


POST MORTEM


Overly derivative and drastically executed, this proves to be the prime example of why you do not go into production with a half assed script. All the CGI and director trickery ends up becoming the cinematic equivalent of purchasing a priceless painting when the frame is actually more valuable than the art.

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