Page 2 of 7
Not that I entirely blame him this time; he's stuck in a movie that could be a ghoulish, spooky version of Men in Black but would really rather just be Men in Black full stop and would settle for Men in Black II in a pinch. The semi-dead Reynolds is partnered with an Old West lawman (Bridges) who has a few endearingly loopy touches—he loses his cowboy hat early on, seems genuinely crushed by the loss, and keeps trying on new ones in the background—but they're sandwiched between imprecise lines that might as well have Bridges call out "I'm old-timey!" in his True Grit drawl. They spend what seems like a bare minimum of time chasing down dead people disguised as the living; when exposed, the undercover dead expand into grotesque figures which should have been a design showcase instead of mostly following the big/fat/strong model (if you've seen one bloated corpse running up a building, well, you've pretty much seen what a lot of RIPD is like). Reynolds and Bridges fire special effects at the special effects, and when hit this causes them to burst into different special effects. I'm not being more specific because that's really what it looks like most of the time: special effects mashing into each other.
Robert Schwentke, director of the original Red as it happens, does his best to shape-shift his competent-hack style to match the supposed zaniness of the material, which means lots and lots of zooms. Not the faux-documentary handheld mini-zooms overused in Man of Steel; more like Sam Raimi/Barry Sonnenfeld style camera-zips, only employed in such short and constant bursts (along with plenty of whip pans and computer-assisted camera tumbles) that they don't emphasize anything except, again, this movie really digs the Men in Black thing (oh and maybe also that when you zoom into an image, you get close to it, and make it harder to see). The movie also tries to shoehorn in some pathos for the Reynolds character, who has been separated in death from the wife he adores. Hey, does that sound incredibly sad? It is, but the movie—coming in under 90 minutes pre-credits, I believe—doesn't have time to develop a real sense of loss. Instead, it turns that potential sadness into an empty set of screenwriter stakes. Don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining that RIPD isn't longer. It certainly moves swiftly and with a minimum of fat. But you could say the same about Men in Black II. Or an 88-minute nap.