Boston Police Departments Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) and his partner Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon) have recently found a horde of gold on a bust and decided to keep it. Nick has reservations and decides he’s going to hand it in, but is killed in action on another bust. Discovering that there is an afterlife he is drafted into the RIPD (Rest in Peace Department) by Mildred Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker) and is teamed with old-time sheriff Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges) to help keep the dead from returning to Earth. While on a routine job, Nick notices that the criminal is trying to hide gold similar to that taken by him and Bobby and a nefarious plot slowly becomes apparent.
Based on the Dark Horse comic book series Rest in Peace Department, RIPD owes a great deal to Men in Black in it’s tone and execution. Like MIB it places a young fast-talking cop along with a grizzled veteran who introduces him to an unknown World that normal people can’t see. The comparisons don’t stop there with CG-heavy creatures of varying sizes, a running joke about the way in which the world perceives them and a bizarre-behaving boss character (Mary-Louise Parker doing a great off-the-wall straight-man character). Yet for a film that relies so heavily on a previous film, RIPD still manages to disappoint.
Jeff Bridges has the best moments as the bonkers Wild West sheriff character whose speech is as slurred as his morals, while Ryan Reynolds plays the same tired character he’s been playing for years. So while there are glimpses of humour and some bonkers ideas, RIPD fails to establish itself as anything other than a cheap knock-off of another film. With Men in Black III having been recently released one wonders who thought that peddling the same schtick would be a good idea. Strangely had they removed the supernatural elements and just let Reynolds and Bridges cut loose as a buddy cop film, it may just have been a great film in the making. But they didn’t and it isn’t.
With no soul or sense that there’s someone behind the camera who sees it as anything other than a paycheck, RIPD falls into the same category as Jonah Hex and Howard the Duck as a comic book adaptation that gives the genre a bad name. Regardless of what you think about films like The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers you get the sense that everything is included for a narrative reason, whereas in RIPD it feels like an exercise in accounting, combining all the elements required for a successful adaptation but never combining them into anything resembling a coherent film.