R.I.P.D. (2013) Howard the Duck Dressed as Jonah Hex?

Film poster for RIPDThere are many reasons that R.I.P.D. (Rest in Peace Department), the Dark Horse limited edition comic-based film died a dismal death on screen and Jeff Bridges announced that the “suits” screwed the whole thing up after the movie got panned universally and was even compared at one point to Howard the Duck. Critic Roger Moore also blasted the film and called it the worst comic book adaptation since Jonah Hex.

Ouch.

A trifle unfair of Moore as at least R.I.P.D. did not have Megan Fox in it. Although the film is a stinker overall despite having a good cast to work with. Starring Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Louise Parker, Kevin Bacon and Stephanie Szostak the film should have entertained with so much talent shoved into one film.

Directed by Richard Schwentke (RED, Insurgent) the film confuses more than it entertains and spends far too much time on the James Hong, Marisa Miller gag which appears to be a lift from Dead Like Me where the returned deceased look different from when they were alive. Having said that, the joke could have been used to much better effect with a little more emphasis on the interaction of the two “avatars.”

The comic book, published by Dark Horse Comics; who published, amongst other cult favorites, Hellboy and Sin City, ran for four issues. Not unusual for the comic publisher who seems to specialize in “one-offs” and limited editions of comics. In the comic, the joke includes the fact that Nick Cruz and Roy’s big boss is indeed “God” and that there is a heaven and a hell. While the film skirts around this issue by referring to “judgement” and they mention hell, Nick’s old partner Bobby Hayes (Bacon) mentions that he refuses to go there, the big boss thing aka, God, is shuffled off to the side.

*To be fair, however, I have never read the comics and apart from the odd synopsis of the short-lived series, can only guess at the “God angle,” although it does seem that this was part and parcel of the wry tongue-in-cheek delivery of the comic.*

The plot of the film, which apparently does follow the comic’s main premise, has Nick Cruz being killed, although in the Dark Horse publication he does not know who killed him and in the film Nick knows his crooked partner did him in.

*A major complaint that I had with the film was the whole “shot in the face” schtick that is mentioned several times in the movie and the scene where Reynolds as Cruz is pumped full of lead, not one of the bullets hits him in the face. Was this considered too graphic or horrid for the film’s PG-13 rating or just on oversight?*

Watching the film one cannot help but have a sort of Deja Vu feeling. It is not too dissimilar to Last Action Hero; the Arnold Schwarzenegger hodgepodge where the comedy made no real sense, such as the inclusion of a cartoon cat as cop, and the producers used a “kitchen sink” approach to the comedic mix. R.I.P.D. feels much the same. The biggest difference between the two films is reception, Roger Ebert actually admitted to liking parts of the Schwarzenegger film.

It should be pointed out that Bridges got a chance to pay respect to his late father Lloyd Bridges with a visual lifted straight from Airplane!. Father Lloyd played a character named McCroskey in the 1980 film who had “picked the wrong time” to stop a number of things, including sniffing glue. At one point in the hysterically funny film, Bridges Senior has a close up of his wildly smiling face and his hair is standing straight up. The camera repositions and the audience can see that McCroskey is upside down. Jeff Bridges replicates that shot as his Sheriff Roy hangs upside down under a building overhang holding a rope attached to a “dead-o.” Complete with wild smile and long hair dangling Bridges does the shot, although without the camera repositioning.

R.I.P.D. iS just not as entertaining as it could have been. The lack of direction, the kitchen sink attitude towards its comedy and the missing coherency hurts the film overall. Bridges and Reynolds fail to mesh as the former seems to be channeling his Rooster Cogburn and the latter plays it all too serious. The two styles never quite fit together.

Watching the film, I kept wanting to see more of Miller and Hong in action and wondered how Mary Louise Parker could still look so young and attractive. This is a 2 out of 5 star film with little to recommend it except for the presence of the beautiful Parker and Szostak who each brighten up the film with their performances. The chaps in the movie are never really given a chance to shine.

Sorry fellas.

While the film is not really Howard the Duck dressed as Jonah Hex, it is a curious blend of both these misbegotten films where direction and focus were both lost by those making the film and the actors never stood a chance. Wait for this one to show up on telly.

10 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Jonah Hex (2010) Under-viewed, Under-Loved

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I finally got to see this film last night and I will say upfront that, despite having “toe-thumb” and plastically enhanced Megan Fox in it, I kind of liked it. Of course there was a slim chance that I would as it has three of my favourite actors in it; Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, and Michael Fassbender.

I was actually surprised to find that I did like it. The film has been almost universally panned from its release. I am not sure if that is because of die hard fans of the original comic not liking it, or something else. Admittedly the film is a bit choppy in the continuity of story department, but, the prosthetic on Brolin’s face that helped to transform him into Hex was brilliant.

The story, which is based on the DC Comics of the same name, deals with civil war soldier Jonah Hex who refuses a direct order from his commanding officer Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich) that results in his (Turnbull’s) son’s death. As punishment, Turnbull, makes Jonah watch his family die in front of him and gets branded on the right side of his face with Turnbull’s branding iron (QT).

Jonah is nursed back to health by a Crow Native American Indian tribe and his time spent in the world of the dead leaves him with the power to make the dead talk. He searches for Turnbull and finds out that he has died. He then becomes a bounty hunter, punishing the guilty. While doing this job a bounty is put on his head. Meanwhile, we find out that Turnbull is not dead, he’s just gone homicidally mad and is planning to start and finish his own brand of civil war.

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Josh Brolin as Jonah Hex.

I thought all the actors, even Megan Fox as Lilah, did a great job. Their performances sold me on this western/fantasy/action film and I never once felt like I was not enjoying it. This may have something to do with the fact that, apart from the title, I’ve never read the comic. Because of this I did not go into the film expecting anything. I just watched it and rather enjoyed this farfetched fantasy take on the civil war story.

I decided to take a chance on the film when I saw it on sale in my local Tesco Extra Store for £3 (about 5 bucks American) and felt that at such a low price I wouldn’t be out very much if I didn’t like it. But since I did enjoy it, it’s now a bargain. The film looked great, the CG and the scenes leapt out at you and the film looked like a western; a big selling point for me if it’s meant to be a western, cross genre or not.

The really big surprise was that I liked Megan Fox’s character. As a rule there has only been one other film where I really liked her performance and that  was Jennifer’s Body the 2009 horror film. She really doesn’t do much for me, especially after finding out about her plastic overhaul. *Not to mention those “toe-thumbs,” shudder.*

I’d have to say that this fantasy “oater” is a good popcorn munching film of the”mindlessly entertaining” sort. So I’d have to give the film a 4 out of 5 stars for managing to make Megan Fox look good in a film. Of course having Brolin, Malkovich, and Fassbender gives it an extra star as well.

Megan Fox as Lilah.
Megan Fox as Lilah.