[img]http://media.monstersandcritics.com/articles3/1717829/article_images/ripd2d.jpg[/img]Releasing/Participating Studio(s): Universal
Disc/Transfer Information: Region A; 1080p High Definition 2.35:1 (Original Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1); 50GB Blu-ray Disc
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Director: Robert Schwentke
Starring Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Jeff Bridges, Mary-Louise Parker, Robert Knepper, James Hong
I knew, going into R.I.P.D., that it was going to be bad…but I didn’t think quite this bad. This was an hour and a half of my life I want back. Truly. I don’t honestly know what was worse…this or sitting through Reynolds in the equally awful Green Lantern or perhaps Nic Cage in the ridiculously terrible Ghost Rider films…ahhh….but I know what may be worse! Suffering through, yet again after we had to do so in the True Grit remake, Jeff Bridges and his thick, incomprehensible drivel that’s supposed to be that of an “old wild west lawman” that here has been put into service by a Men in Black-style underground organization as a “collector of souls” sort. I didn’t like him droning on and on and on in True Grit in this western-esque babble – that made him sound like some retarded throwback sheriff that’s been gnawing on chewing tobacco for too long – and here it became annoying within minutes. But as I said, I knew going in I wouldn’t like this – I can recall seeing the trailers for the film and not being interested but my wife surprisingly was because, as I suspected, she believed it to be a new kind of spinoff of something like Men in Black. And in many ways, Rob Schwentke mimics many of that film’s elements – but where MiB was saved by a kooky but cleverly creative story and the comedic camaraderie between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, there was absolutely no gel between Reynolds and Bridges here and what’s worse their acting bordered on laughable. Further, we get Kevin Bacon coming out of whatever retirement he was pretending to be in to play the bad guy here but he falters just as bad as he did when he played the villain in X-Men: First Class. Here, as the fellow policeman who plays Reynolds' character’s Boston Police partner and who ends up killing him but being some kind of “Deado” himself (what they call the “things” they stalk to send back to hell in the Rest in Peace Department) Bacon is neither scary nor threatening. In fact, the last time I saw this guy have fun with a role was probably in Hollow Man where he played the daring yet equally demented scientist gone mad when he realizes he can keep himself invisible. From bad dialogue writing to embarrassing acting on just so many levels and down to pretty shoddy CGI work, this was definitely one of the more forgettable films of the past blockbuster season to pass.
Based on, of course, on a comic titled Rest in Peace Department as published by Dark Horse Entertainment, R.I.P.D. follows the antics of Boston cops Nick Walker and Bobby Hayes who steal a chest full of gold found during a drug bust. When Nick buries his share of the gold in his Boston home’s small backyard with the intention of using it to make a better life for himself and his wife Julia (Stephanie Szosak) but then decides the morally right thing to do is to return it, his partner Bobby (Bacon) gets nervous and decides to use another drug raid they go on as an opportunity to kill Nick before he can rat them out about the gold, framing a criminal for the murder. Nick ascends through a vortex tunnel to the afterlife after being, apparently, shot in the face by his own partner and in a Men in Black-esque sequence finds himself in a bustling office where Mary-Louise Parker’s character asks him questions about joining their “organization” instead of having to face judgment. In reality, this would all be way too over the top to explain off as a “near death” or “after life” experience but in rogue, offbeat comic adaptations the liberties filmmakers take are downright astonishing – for example, when we die, would we really float through a tunnel of some kind wearing the same clothes we had on at the time of our death while consciously getting ready to live a different kind of “life” with like-looking humans still all around us…many of which are still wearing police uniforms? R.I.P.D. wants us to believe that this “Rest in Peace Department,” as guardians of the afterlife, recruit fallen law officers from all over the country (and presumably the world) to serve in their corps, still each divided by region – in other words, Reynolds’ Nick Walker was slain in Boston so he’s “sent” to the “Boston division” of the Rest in Peace Department. What?
If you’re still with me, without any kind of “swearing in” ceremony of any kind (like with Will Smith’s character in the far superior Men in Black) or training, Walker becomes the partner of “old wild west era” lawman Roy Pulsipher (Bridges), a gun slinger from the 1800s frontier America period whisked away to service for the Rest in Peace Department after something happened which caused “coyotes to eat his carcass” (and which we hear about constantly throughout the film and which gets utterly annoying after awhile). Deados, as they are known by R.I.P.D. sworn officers, are spirits that failed to cross over and now return to Earth as monstrous ghosts – but which actually come off being laughable attempts at CGI work fusing elements from the “Mr. Hyde” creature in Van Helsing and perhaps creatures from Monsters Inc.; not since John Carpenter’s Escape From L.A. have I seen such quasi-sloppy special effects work…I mean I truly didn’t buy the cartoonish appearance of these “Deados.” Nick then gets a chance to witness his own funeral by the Boston Police Department, where he notices Julia crying and receiving the folded flag – but his rage for his ex-partner Bobby causes him to storm down to the ceremony and attempt to confront him and Julia. He quickly finds out from Roy that what he and Nick are now are what’s known as “avatars” – new identities in the “mortal world” in which others see them as completely different people…in the case of Nick, he’s now seen as an old Asian man named Jerry Chen and in Roy’s case, he’s seen as a drop-dead-gorgeous Russian supermodel named Opal Pavlenko (James Hong and the stunningly, outrageously hot Marisa Miller, respectively, who tramps around the entire film in an eye-widening shimmery gold minidress and sky-high stilettos). To me, this was one of the film’s absolute weakest elements – making it so that the rest of the living world can see the members of R.I.P.D. as these “other personalities” was just stupid in my opinion and in this regard gave Men in Black the upper hand in the concept department. In MiB, at least the aliens were hiding within human bodies and the MiB members appeared in suits and could erase the memories of everyone “involved” with an alien encounter. Here, the afterlife “monster ghosts” are rampaging down the streets of Boston with their clothes hanging off looking like bad cartoon sketches while a supermodel and old Chinese guy – from the perspective of the onlookers – are shooting at them with futuristic blue lasers that shoot from their weapons. This was utterly dumb to me.
Also as equally stupid was the way in which character dialogue between the two R.I.P.D. agents and others switched back and forth between Bridges and Reynolds and Hong and Miller; I mean, the whole thing was just ridiculous after awhile…we witness Bridges talking to a potential Deado, dressed like the 1800s Marshall he once was, when suddenly we see the perspective of the character he’s talking to and it’s the beautiful Miller running the dialogue…making matters worse is that the lines Bridges is delivering don’t match up to the “flirtatious” approach of Miller’s lines when we “see” things from the perspective of the person/character “she’s” talking to. This became annoying and offputting in no time and the film definitely suffers for it. Finally, the whole angle suggesting anyone seeing Miller walk down the street in her barely-there dress, high heels and long blonde hair with this old Chinese guy at her side who’s half her height and is wearing a bad Member’s Only jacket, pants pulled up to his chest with a tight belt and awful fisherman’s hat, and if they’re male will drool all over themselves as they watch Miller strut her stuff, was just cliché and dumb as well, especially since we know it’s really Bridges who’s walking with Reynolds.
At any rate, Nick begins to follow Bobby as his murderous ex-partner gets closer and closer with Julia, to the point Roy suggests perhaps she’s having an affair with the cop. The plot unravels when Nick finally confronts Bobby in his house and we learn Bobby himself is a head honcho Deado, able to cover his real identity through a religious icon he wears as a bracelet (I know…it’s dumb) and who has been in on this whole “gold emblem” fiasco from the beginning – apparently, the Deados need to collect gold pieces to form a machine that will allow the tunnel vortex between hell and Earth to open, welcoming the dead to walk the Earth forever. When Bobby is placed in R.I.P.D. custody by Nick and Roy, he quickly utilizes a secret weapon that allows him and his fellow Deados to escape R.I.P.D. Boston headquarters while rendering Nick, Roy and other agents frozen. A final confrontation occurs on the top of the Boston Commonwealth building in which Bobby has tricked Julia to come to him and who he’s now using as a shield against an attack by Roy and Nick, two of the R.I.P.D.’s best. As a futuristic weapon battle between the two agents and Bobby’s Deados ensue, Bobby manages to open the vortex, beginning to let in the fallen from hell. Of course, this is quickly taken care of by Nick and Roy who end up destroying Bobby and closing the portal, sucking the souls back to hell, while Nick gets a chance to see Julia one last time in his old form when Julia is shot by Bobby and begins to cross over to the afterlife. At a certain point, R.I.P.D. begins to steal some elements from Ghost – but Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker), the head agent that recruited Nick for R.I.P.D., manages to “influence” Julia to “pull through,” and she regains consciousness in a hospital room, letting her live on and forcing Nick to continue fighting “Deados” with his official new partner, Roy.
I sincerely hope they don’t make a sequel to this but I suspect it’s inevitable. After all, they tried this with the Men in Black series but it was quickly discovered none of the sequels fared as well as the creative original. From the stupid plot elements such as Bridges needing to stuff his face with what he calls “engine food” (somewhat of a racist slur for “Indian food”) in order to get answers from certain Deados to the offbeat, offputting dialogue and the unimpressive special effects work, R.I.P.D. was an utter disaster in my opinion.
[img]http://cdn2.sbnation.com/entry_photo_images/8058339/ripd_large_verge_medium_landscape.jpg[/img]VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC LOOK?
Fortunately, Universal has delivered a stunning, top-notch 1080p transfer for this bomb of a film, bursting with detail, rich colors, utter dimension and clarity reserved for some of the best-looking Blu-rays out. Only some minor sequences fall on the rather soft side, but when the 2.35:1 transfer shows off, it really struts its stuff – facial close ups, texture and detail in outdoor sequences, colors of foliage and even interior elements…it’s all on display here in vivid, stunning form. From beginning to end this was a rock-solid visual treat – though I really wouldn’t expect less from Universal unless there were some filmmaker decisions that had affected a Blu-ray’s look – boasting stable imagery, noise-less characteristics, good black and shadow levels, boosted and eye-popping contrast where called upon and much more.
[img] http://digboston.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/ripd-jameshong-grandpachen-marisamiller-600.jpg[/img]AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC SOUND?
For whatever reason, the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack on the Region A Blu-ray release didn’t pack quite the same wallop as the video – this was, surprisingly, a somewhat subdued mix with overtly restrained amounts of LFE and a mastering level that was on the low/shallow side. That being said, the action sequences in R.I.P.D. were accompanied by explosive demonstrations of wild audio cues within this mix, throwing ambient effects, wooshing sounds, alien groans and action directionality all over the soundstage and around the listener. Some moments of the film collapsed into rather subtle surround channel usage wherein I felt as though a truck, for example, flying through the air and landing behind me would have been rendered in a more startling, convincing way – but these moments were few and far between, and the audio for the most part was as satisfying as possible, I suppose, for the rather weak subject material here.
The sheer conceived lack of bass on the track concerned me though; only once, if I recall, did my walls really rattle from a deep LFE drop or two.
As always, fellow ‘Shacksters, thanks for reading! Let me know if you agreed or disagreed with my findings, or if you would like to discuss your opinion of R.I.P.D.!