R.I.P.D., by Albert W. Vogt III

Recently, I noticed on Netflix that some mad person made R.I.P.D. 2: Rise of the Damned (2022).  There is a title of significance to a Catholic reviewer.  Now, perhaps I am being unfair by letting snark creep in already, in case you have not already sniffed out my attitude.  After all, I had never seen the original, R.I.P.D. (2013).  What I had heard about it was not good.  I recall taking a look at the previews before it came out and giving it a hard pass, despite it having Ryan Reynolds.  Indeed, there was a period before Deadpool (2016) when I was getting tired of his face.  Like many, I had gotten used to his quippy sense of humor, but in the context of mainly romantic comedies.  Then he started making clunky action film after clunky action film, it all starting with Green Lantern (2011), and he actually continues to make them, like with Red Notice (2021).  R.I.P.D. is no different, and you will see why.  Still, at least we will always have Deadpool.  That third installment cannot come soon enough.

R.I.P.D. sets the stage right away with former Boston Police Detective Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) narrating about a world that, before three or four days ago (just pick one, movie, it is okay to make your editor think) he did not know existed.  It is not so much a world apart from ours, but an addition where there are monsters that he is now combatting.  In that strange, indeterminate period before, Detective Walker is burying at night a bag full of broken gold fragments underneath a newly planted orange tree in his back yard.  He is doing so for his wife, Julia (Stéphanie Szostak), who has always wanted the fresh citrus despite them living in Boston.  They share an intimate moment to prove for the audience that they love each other before it is off to work.  Speaking of that gold, when Detective Walker gets to the precinct, he tells his partner, Detective Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon), that he is going to turn over the gold as evidence.  They had apparently taken it in a bust before the movie began (figure it out) and believe they are going to get rich off of it. Detective Hayes is put off initially, but agrees.  Before their conversation can go any further, they are called out to the hideout of a notorious drug lord in the area that they had been investigating.  They go there with several other officers and a Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team.  It turns into a shootout, with Detective Walker getting separated from the rest.  He is met by, say it with me, Detective Bailey, who murders his former partner because he needs the gold.  Time stops for Detective Walker as his soul walks through the chaos, eventually to be transported upwards into the afterlife.  Instead of the cliché of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he is met by Mildred Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker).  She explains that while he should probably be subject to judgment (whatever that means), and likely not a favorably one, he has a set of skills that her department, which she supervises, needs.  That is the Rest In Peace Department (RIPD), the title acronym, in other words.  Detective Walker is still getting over the shock of being dead, but Mildred is offering a chance at going back after 100 years of service to the RIPD.  She notices his hope of getting back his former life breaking out on his face, but she quickly reminds him that there is no returning.  He agrees anyway.  Now it is time for him to meet his partner, you know, because despite this being about cops in the afterlife, we have to throw in every cop movie stereotype.  The partner chosen for him is Roicephus “Roy” Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges), a former lawman of the Old West.  Roy slowly fills Detective Walker in on the rules of being an officer of the law for the deceased, proceeding showing Detective Walker his own funeral.  He tries to go to Julia to comfort her, but to her he appears as an old Chinese man (James Hong), so that is confusing for her.  After this, it is Roy’s turn to show Detective Walker how they apprehend fugitives.  These are called “deados,” and they are souls that refuse to pass on to the beyond.  Doing so rots their souls, turning them into monster, which have to now be brought in and locked up in a vast prison system.  In the process of doing this first procedure, the deado ends up coughing up gold pieces similar to the ones he had found while he was still alive.  At this point, they are forced to put aside their initial grievances and Roy brings Detective Walker to a deado informant named Elliot (Mike O’Malley).  Elliot feigns ignorance, but eventually leads Detective Walker and Roy to, say it with me, Detective Bailey.  At length, they are able to retrieve a briefcase fall of gold fragments and bring them back to their headquarters.  This is where they learn that they belong to the fabled “Staff of Jericho.”  It is an artifact that can reverse the flow of souls, and return the deados to earth.  In short, it can bring about an apocalypse.  Unfortunately, Detective Walker and Roy decide to bring Detective Bailey in for questioning, who, if you have not guessed it by now, is a deado.  Their actions only lead to Detective Bailey and Roy inadvertently giving Detective Bailey the proximity he needs to obtain the missing pieces of the Staff of Jericho.  The last item Detective Bailey needs is the blood of his enemies.  I guess Julia qualifies even though they had been friendly.  At any rate, bing, bang, boom, Detective Bailey and Roy triumph, and Detective Walker is able to have a proper goodbye with Julia, who had been seriously wounded.  We know this because the last scene is him and Roy leaving the hospital where Julia is being treated.

There is a lot of silliness in R.I.P.D. and not simply because of the concept.  On the bright side, it is nice to see Detective Walker realize that there is something bigger than himself and his desire to once more be with Julia.  They make it pretty clear throughout that he is, in fact, dead, and that there is no coming back from it.  As such, he needs to find a higher purpose, which he does.  Faith does that for us.  The problem is, of course, that there is a going back, so to speak, at the Resurrection in the last days.  The Bible does not say what this will be specifically like, which is what leads many Christians to believe some interesting things.  It also gives Hollywood creative license for this nonsense.  What Scripture says is that when the day comes, we will take up our “glorified bodies.”  We do not exactly know what this will be like because Faith has never been about that kind of definition, nor is it the point.  At the same time, the film is not dealing with precise Biblical exactitudes.  It is, instead, an a la carte sampling of whatever belief system it wants to pull from at a given moment in the plot, which is frustrating.  If you are not going to do something right, why bother?  Oh, wait, I know, because you want to earn millions of dollars.  Oh, wait again, this film barely made back half its budget.  And yet they decided to go with a sequel?

Of course, few movies, be it R.I.P.D. or something else, are going to satisfy this Catholic reviewer when they play with powers they seem to little care to understand.  This is evident when they use a St. Christopher medallion as a sort of talisman protecting Detective Bailey from being revealed as a deado.  St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers, yet here we have his intercession being used for evil purposes.  Please, do not do stuff like this, movies.


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