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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

R.I.P.D.

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds star in a scene from the movie "R.I.P.D."
Confusion reigns in "R.I.P.D." (Universal), a scattershot action adventure that tries to be too many different kinds of movie at once, and winds up being mostly a mess.

With many of its scenes set in the afterlife, moreover, the film features a convoluted set of post-mortem rules, regulations and dynamics only some of which are compatible with Christian faith.

Director Robert Schwentke's adaptation of Peter M. Lenkov's series of graphic novels introduces us to Boston cop Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds). Though fundamentally decent, Nick has recently been corrupted. Thus, we first observe him furtively burying some ill-gotten goods in his backyard in the middle of the night.

Nick's love for his trusting wife Julia (Stephanie Szostak), however, soon inspires a change of heart, and he decides to return to the straight and narrow.

Rather ill-advisedly, Nick shares the news of his conversion with his even more crooked partner -- in both crime-fighting and crime -- Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon). Not one to let things go, it seems, Bobby uses the opportunity of a chaotic raid on a drug lord's den to kill Nick and blame his death on the bad guys.

Waking up in the script's version of Valhalla, Nick is given the opportunity to forestall judgment of -- and, presumably, condemnation for -- his misdeeds by serving on a celestial police force called the Rest in Peace Department. R.I.P.D.'s no-nonsense leader Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker) assures Nick that the organization can use a man with his skills.

Uneasily paired with crusty Wild West-era lawman Roycephus "Roy" Pulsifer (Jeff Bridges), Nick embarks on R.I.P.D.'s work of hunting down dead villains who have managed to evade divine justice by lingering on earth. Improbably, this pursuit eventually ties into -- and sheds new light on -- the circumstances of Nick's own demise.

Though Bridges struggles to sustain the proceedings with amusing bravado, the multiple screenwriters' attempt to combine a buddy movie with a special-effects extravaganza, a comedy and a redemptive romance dooms the film to attention-deficit ineffectiveness.

The image of immortality we're offered is equally out of focus. Believers will welcome the affirmation that our moral choices in this life carry eternal consequences. But, if there is indeed an all-knowing and all-powerful God in command, how is it that the targets of Nick and Roy's investigations -- dubbed Deados -- have eluded the grasp of this Hound of Heaven?

The ante-room afterworld of "R.I.P.D." can be read as a sort of purgatory. Both Nick and Roy are ethically lukewarm characters working out the legacy of their darker doings amid the pain of separation from earthly life and the dissatisfaction caused by their untimely deaths.

But the state these two temporarily inhabit might as easily be identified with the shadowy, nebulous Hades of pagan mythology. And the prospect, as raised in the dialogue, that the dead can be punished with erasure -- so that they will cease to exist spiritually as well as physically -- is certainly contrary to Gospel-based church teaching on the eternal nature of the human soul.

The film contains much action violence with fleeting gore, a nongraphic marital bedroom scene, brief partial nudity, occasional adult humor, a few instances of profanity, considerable crude and crass language and a couple of obscene gestures. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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