R.I.P.D. (which stands for Rest In Peace Department) first came to life as a graphic novel telling the story of a supernatural police force whose job it is to hunt down bad souls who roam the earth, hiding out among the living, in order to escape Judgment – they are helpfully called Deados.
The movie version stays faithful to the concept but features the cops at the centre of the story, instead of the myriad gory demons running loose. Ryan Reynolds plays Nick, a young cop who is doing his best to do his job diligently and provide for himself and his lovely young wife Julia (Stephanie Szostak). At a drug bust, he and his partner Hayes (Kevin Bacon), find unusual pieces of gold, and instead of turning them in as evidence, they choose to keep them. Nick regrets his decision immediately and tells Hayes he will return the gold. At the next crime bust, Nick is killed.
That is how he finds himself at the R.I.P.D. where the Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker) explains to him what the department does and assigns him a partner – the larger-than-life, fast talking cowboy Roy (Jeff Bridges). Nick and Roy get right down to business, which they think will be hunting down the bad guys and hauling them back to the R.I.P.D. What they stumble upon though, is a much bigger mystery with wide-reaching and catastrophic implications that could impact every human on earth permanently.
While the premise of R.I.P.D. is pretty outlandish, the film itself plays out in a fairly grounded manner with the familiar beats of an action-comedy. Within this box are explored familiar themes – the buddy-cop relationship, the dirty cop who must be stopped, the wife who thinks her husband was lying to her, the young man who was taken in his prime, the old man who has had to live with regret and keep going. All of this makes for a solid story under the unique basic premise of the film. Whether you like it or not hinges on what you think of the supernatural police force concept in the first place.
Reynolds and Bridges share good chemistry – the bedrock of any good buddy-cop film. Bacon is always good to watch. Mary-Louise Parker brings what now appears to be her trademark eccentricity to the role of the woman who oversees the R.I.P.D. Her iconic character, drug dealer Nancy Botwin, from the TV series Weeds, never seems far away. Even French actress Stephanie Szostak, last seen kicking butt as a villain in Iron Man 3, brings some heft to her short role as the wife, usually a fairly cardboard, incidental character in such films.
Final Analysis: R.I.P.D. is a solid concept with a storyline that does it justice.
My advice: Check out the trailer. If you’re okay with the basic concept, or at least willing to suspend disbelief for a while, you will be rewarded with an entertaining movie.