There was much excitement surrounding this sequel to R.I.P.D….R.I.P.D….the Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges film? Back in 2013? Kevin Bacon was in it too? No?
Seriously though, the 2013 box office bomb had potential, adapting Peter M. Lenkov’s 1999 comic book, to unleash a supernatural story of a police department of the departed, who try to keep the souls of those who escaped judgment (aka, “Deados”) from causing havoc in the land of the living. Sadly, in spite of Bridges’ commitment, the film fell afoul with critics and audiences, who saw it as a barely hung together sub-par Men in Black. So the news that a sequel had been greenlit, and 10 years later to boot, was shall we say, a shock.
So, here we are, with R.I.P.D. 2: Rise of the Damned, which – despite its title – is actually a prequel, set back in 1876, as the Wild West has gone to hell! Telling the backstory of Bridges’ character Roicephus “Roy” Pulsipher (here played by Jeffrey Donovan), who teams up with fellow RIPD officer Jeanne (Penelope Mitchell), to save humanity from an evil force who has possessed one of the living and aims to open the gateway to Hell.
Maybe R.I.P.D wasn’t so bad after all…because this prequel really is DOA. Look, Westerns are often blended with other genres, with mixed results it must be said, but even the failures can be fun unhinged products. Rise of the Damned however feels very much like a sub-par Western and doesn’t blend at all with the supernatural elements of this story.
Add to this the fact that this franchise reboot/prequel doesn’t even feel related to the film that came before it in hardly any way. Its lore is messy and unclear (why does Roy ultimately age if he’s dead, when his partner hasn’t for over a 100 years?), the backstory of Roy is altered needlessly, and more chronically than that, this film is kneecapped by its own struggles to justify its existence.
Who was this made for? Fans, clearly not. Critics, why bother? Hell, it has been nearly a decade later, and even back in 2013 the first film died a death at the box office. The project makes no sense, even as a cash in, because where is the cash potential? Even the fabric of the movie itself is riddled with holes, the film’s attempts at messages about racism and sexism are obvious considering the era, lacking any punch that other recent films have made, and are only here to try and add meat to what is a picked clean carcass of a film.
You know, all this would have even be ok in some way, were it not for the film’s crushing unmemorability. By the time you reach the end, you have already forgotten much of what the story even was, and this is a film that you won’t just have forgotten watching by next year, it’s a film you won’t even remember actually happened next month.
Donovan and Mitchell are the sole saving graces of the film, trying their best with the flat comedy (and boy is some of it flatter than roadkill) and uneasy blend of the concept with Western. They even manage to get in a scene of genuine heart, but it’s all too much of an uphill battle for a film that is a head scratcher in so many ways.
What was it Jud Crandall said in Pet Semetary? “Sometimes dead is better”.