July 25, 2013

Critical Capsule Two-fer: RED 2 meets R.I.P.D.

A few years ago an adaptation of the DC Comics title RED (standing for Retired Extremely Dangerous) arrived in theaters. It boasted a strong cast that included Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Mary Louise-Parker, as Karl Urban (as well as a cameo by the late Ernest Borgnine). It was well received and proved to be really entertaining, much more so than I was expecting it to be, anyway. Now, we are faced with a pair of films that feel somewhat connected, fighting each other with the same opening weekend.

The problem with the two movies I am about to briefly touch on, is that they both feel terribly mediocre, even derivative. Yes, that is nothing new with the current state that Hollywood is in. The first movie is, surprise surprise, RED 2, reuniting the primary cast members of the first film and adding some new faces like Catherine Zeta-Jones and Byun Hun Lee (Storm Shadow in the GI Joe movies). The other is also a comic book adaptation, R.I.P.D. A light action/sci-fi movie with Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon, and Mary Louise-Parker.

Besides both being mediocre summer movies, they do share a more direct connection. One is the obvious sharing of cast. Both films feature Mary Louise-Parker. She as more of a supporting role in R.I.P.D., but she is there. Also, director Robert Schwentke, the man behind the first RED, directed R.I.P.D. If just struck me as me resting that movies sharing a cast member and, sort of, director, ended up opens opposite each other.

The reason I lumped these two movies together is that, simply put, I was looking for something to write about and neither of these movies was interesting enough on their own. I walked away from each one somewhat enjoying them, but I do not feel the need to ever watch them again and I am sure they will quickly fade from my memory in short order.

I had hopes for RED 2 because I had really enjoyed the first film. The problem is that it fails to capture the energy and charisma of the first one. It tries, I will definitely give it that, but it fails to feel fresh or different. The first had a real sense of fun and freshness, this one feels like a has been. It was hurt by a very annoying performance by Mary Louise-Parker. She just really got under my skin with her overly anxious desire to be put into dangerous situations, so irritating. Plus, the story just never really got me. It pus our aging assassins in the crosshairs with the added bonus of a nuclear bomb in Moscow.

With as lackluster as the movie is, there is a bit I liked about it. Willis is a good lead and John Malkovich has some really funny moments as he hams it up. I also thought that Byun Hun Lee was a good addition to the cast, dangerous and humorous. It is really casting moments that I like. When you add up all the pieces, it is greater than the sum. Entertaining enough but easily forgettable.

I followed that up with R.I.P.D. and it just felt really flat. Not annoying like RED 2, just more like they weren't trying. The basic plot has Ryan Reynolds as a police officer killed in action who is recruited to be a dead soul hunter. He is paired with the loudmouth senior officer played by Jeff Bridges. They head out on the streets to round up souls who didn't follow the bright light. The souls, meanwhile, are trying to reverse the road to heaven and dump the dead souls back on Earth.

The movie plays out like a weak mash of Men in Black and Ghostbusters. The problem is none of it is all that well developed. It lacks personality and genuine wit. The best thing about it is Jeff Bridges who, much like John Malkovich in RED 2, chews the scenery like there is no tomorrow and makes the movie somewhat watchable.

Now, that is all I much care to write about these two movies. Again, I do not hate them, I just find them terribly bland and mediocre. I also feel they oth had the potential to he very entertaining. Sadly, they both went off the rails of fun into the chasm of forgettable mediocrity. For the record, I liked RED 2 a bit better.

Not Recommended.

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