If you were to write out the characters and plot elements of both films, they would be almost the same. In fact, you could draw lines and play a matching game. Jeff Bridges is very similar to Tommy Lee Jones, and Ryan Reynolds is similar to Will Smith. Is there some super-secret organization that polices the supernatural? Yes. Is there some noob that joins this organization and has to deal with this whole new world? Yes. Is there some disaster that could destroy the world as we know it unless our heroes intervene? Heck, yes.
I think the real question is whether or not this film is a whole lot of fun. I would have to say yes to that. This film may be reusing its substance, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t without style. The premise of the film is about a precinct that works in policing those in the afterlife that have somehow escaped death as we know it.
In all honesty, I have no idea how these “deados” escape the hereafter, but apparently this is a commonplace occurrence. You would think that if there is a precinct devoted to this, then most humans would have noticed this. The film doesn’t devote a lot of time to how this process works, but apparently, if you try to run from the next world, the Rest In Peace Department will come after you.
Ryan Reynolds, who is apparently the star power behind this film, plays a cop named Nick who was killed in the line of duty by his corrupt partner Hayes (Kevin Bacon). Nick is then recruited by the RIPD by an odd woman named Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker), and told that they could use his help in the precinct.
Since this is a cop show, albeit supernatural, what is a noobie cop film without an experienced partner? In this case, it is Roy, a former old west sheriff played by Jeff Bridges. Together, Nick and Roy meet special effects undead and track down Hayes before his plot to open a hole in space to the netherworld that will kill our world.
Of course, Men In Black is the better film, but there are some enjoyable things in this film. I feel that almost every actor is giving their all in his or her performance. Jeff Bridges is combining the personality of his True Grit character with The Dude from The Big Lebowski. Kevin Bacon is also good as an over-the-top villain, and he shines. Mary-Louise Parker plays her role with that same sense of detached emotion that earned her several accolades for that TV show Weeds. The only one that doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself is Ryan Reynolds.
Granted, I always have a hard time with films that have a very non-Christian view of the afterlife, but there seems to be an acknowledgment of judgment which I appreciate. If you are looking at the RIPD as angels and the deados as demons, then this is kind of a film about spiritual warfare.
All in all, I can’t help but like this film, even though there is a film just like it. I know I said the same thing about Pacific Rim, but I really hope that we are not at the point where we are making movies that are imitations of other movies.