Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds lay down the law in RIPD

by Mark Burger

Good cops never die. They just continue being cops in the afterlife, where they must pursue the unruly dead — those souls reluctant to give up the ghost (as it were) and face judgment.

Such is the conceit — and concept — of RIPD (***), a brisk big-screen adaptation of the Dark Horse comic book by Peter M. Lenkov.

Nick (Ryan Reynolds) is a tough but tender Boston cop who’s recently met his earthly end and finds himself recruited by the “Rest in Peace Department” and partnered with Roy (Jeff Bridges), a grizzled but lovable lawman who met his end during the Wild West era from whence he learned his unorthodox methods of detection.

Nick and Roy are a mismatch, but by film’s end they’re about as buddy/buddy as you’d expect. RIPD breaks no new narrative or technical ground — although the special effects are impressive — but director Robert Schwentke knows enough to keep the action moving up to and including the Big Climax where Nick and Roy save the world.

(What, did you think they wouldn’t?) Recalling Ghostbusters (1984) and the Men in Black films, RIPD is essentially sci-fi fluff. It’s unpretentious and occasionally inspired. The film’s principal pleasures are incidental, but that’s not to downplay their importance to the enjoyment quotient of the overall film.

First and foremost, there is Bridges in a snappy riff on his recent role as Rooster Cogburn in the True Grit remake. The actor, who at this stage of his career can essentially do no wrong — he’s always welcome, no matter the circumstances or the outcome — manages the seemingly impossible feat of not being overshadowed by the film’s plentiful CGI effects. He’s having a high old time here.

Reynolds, for his part, essentially plays straight-man to Bridges, but the film’s weakest moments are those with his grieving wife (Stephanie Szostak). It slows things down, but it’s rudimentary to the plot. Better is Kevin Bacon as the bad guy, and better still is UNCSA School of Drama’s ace alumni Mary-Louise Parker, who does a fine job of rocking a pair of go-go boots and putting both Bridges and Reynolds in their place(s) as their ever-exasperated and endlessly quirky superior.

There are better movies this summer than RIPD, but there are plenty of worse ones. This is light popcorn fare, given just enough of a cool boost — particularly in an airconditioned movie theater — to make it worth a light and loose recommendation.

Besides, when compared to The Heat, which was also a buddy/cop film set in Boston, RIPD is the hands-down winner. It’s cooler and hotter.