Is it me, or does "R.I.P.D." carry a harsh rhythm that makes it sound like a rap group or something? Oh, you know they're bringing Ghostface Killah back in this film, and even if that is just a play on this film's lead's profession as supernatural justice-seekers, it still makes me scream, "No", it just doesn't help that this film is pretty mediocre. Now, it's not that bad, folks, but it's still not that bright, and you need only to look at its title to figure that out, because R.I.P.D. stands for "Rest in Peace Department", which does not address the fact that this is, in fact, some kind of a police department, leaving you to wonder why they don't just call this "R.I.P.P.D.", or, you know, just cut out the lame "Rest in Peace" pun altogether. Okay, fine, it's a cute little acronym, but the fact of the matter is that this film clearly doesn't take itself as seriously as such other Dark Horse Entertainment efforts as "30 Days of Night" and... um... I don't know, "Timecop". Man, the Dark Horse company has always been kind of silly, and it's also been all about unconventional super-police and the supernatural, so this is actually about as definitive as anything Dark Horse Entertainment could have put out without having 300, polished Spartan warriors... fighting the supernatural. As over-the-top as "300" got, even in the comics, you know that there was plenty of supernatural stuff going on, thus, we have further evidence that Dark Horse knows its silly properties, and how to make that silly stuff fun on the silver screen, you know, up to a point. Forget an amalgamation of common Dark Horse Entertainment property themes, this is more like a combination of "Dylan Dog" and "Men in Black", in that it is that perfect fusion into mediocre that may not even be as decent as "Men in Black", but is at least not "Dylan Dog", and for a couple of reasons.
The effects have their flawed moments, some of which are embarrassing, especially considering the substantial budget of $130 million, but when the effects convince, or at least work on their own level, while they don't stand out, they color things up with nifty concepts, particularly when lively action set pieces kick in. The action is often frantic, and is consistently conventional in staging, which is still delightfully dynamic, with stylish momentum that may not carry that much of a sense of consequence, but highlights entertainment value established by the very storytellers who cannot prevent mediocrity from piercing through the fun factor. As far as storytelling is concerned, this film is a borderline disaster, but it's not as colossal of a failure as some are saying, as there are indeed highlights, even within a sloppy script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi that has more than a few funny moments and cool set pieces, while Robert Schwentke's utilizes style and some tight areas in storytelling to keep pacing brisk enough to entertain, maybe through and through. Needless to say, entertainment value is very limited, as the film is just so blasted mediocre and lazily done, partly because the frantic pacing wears down on you after a while, yet there are offscreen highlights in storytelling that I have to commend through my teeth before I can boast about the onscreen highlights that, quite frankly, are about as strong as I was expecting. This film is so messy in so many places that it would have even slipped into laziness in the acting department if this cast wasn't so respectable and talented, thus, if nothing else is consistently about as inspired as it can be, it is the performances, at least those by our leads, with Ryan Reynolds capturing the confusion of a man gradually growing used to his new life as a dead man, while Jeff Bridges just plain steals the show, as usual, pumping a boisterous charisma to the brim, until you end up with a delightful lead who is more memorable than the film itself. Honestly, when Reynolds' and Bridges' charismas bond, some pretty solid chemistry is built, and while that isn't enough to save this effort, even when backed by highlights in style and entertainment value, the worthy dynamics of the leads and other genuine strengths reflect what the final product might have been: a genuinely decent opus. As things stand, however, the film falls hard into, not just forgettability, but mediocrity, having its strengths, sure, but having a whole lot more flaws, even within technicality.
As I've been saying, there are plenty of technical, or at least stylistic highlights (If you can't completely pull it off, at least make sure it's well-polished), but there are also plenty of questionable technical spots, which range from shoddy moments in the generally decent effects, to frantic, sometimes downright choppy editing by Mark Helfrich whose sense of freneticism goes exacerbated by uneven structural pacing. Well, maybe uneven isn't the best way to describe this film's pacing, as storytelling never slows down all that much, having a briskness that often carries liveliness, yet just as often gets carried away with its freneticism, which leaves plotting to go awkwardly and unevenly slam-banged, with a sense of repetition, if not monotony, and superficialization. The near-exhausting plotting structure, alone, distances your investment by thinning developmental depth into dissipation, while watering down tension after a while of bland repetition. Of course, there are other problems in Phil Hay's and Matt Manfredi's to further distance, and whether they be fall-flat moments in dialogue and humor, or lame-brain set pieces, they go backed by overblown directorial storytelling by Robert Schwentke that feels about as cold as it does lively. Unfocused storytelling has a brisk momentum to it that offers a consistent degree of entertainment value, but there's no real fun factor, just a distancing lack of inspiration in misguided direction and mediocre writing that reflects laziness about as aggravatingly as conventions. Really, to tell you the truth, this film's mythology and basic premise concept carry plenty of genuinely unique elements, but quite frankly, in the long run, potentially refreshing material is ultimately betrayed by a glaring genericism within most everything from Christophe Beck's score to writing and direction that wears down on momentum, until the final product finds itself treading along an annoyingly trite path which feels lazy enough without the lapses in inspiration within storytelling. The film is completely and utterly forgettable, and we've seen films of this type in the past that were just that, but still decent as simple fluff pieces, but with this particular film, I find difficulty in emphasizing just how great its flaws are, for as bad as I make them sound in this review, their consistency throughout the final product is aggravating, maybe not to where the film slips through mild entertainment value and into all-out contempt, but certainly to where this misfire falls into mediocrity.
In closing, highlights in the effects and action compliment an entertainment value that is kept going to some extent by inspired occasions in writing and direction, and by thorough chemistry and charisma between Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges, until the final product borders on decent, only to fall flat under the overwhelming weight of technical lapses, overstylization, uneven pacing and lazily under-inspired, trite writing and direction, which make "R.I.P.D." a mediocre misfire of a messy supernatural buddy comedy, through all of its potential.
2.25/5 - Mediocre