Watching Chris Evans and Ana de Armas in the new Apple Original Movie “Ghosted,” it’s hard not to think of the power of truly brilliant screenwriting. Specifically, it’s hard not to think about how hard it must be to write a brilliant script, since it’s not here. We’ve seen Evans and de Armas separately prove that they’re immensely charming and charismatic performers, and we’ve seen them bounce off each other with aplomb in the excellent murder mystery “Knives Out,” which served as both a bigger role for de Armas and as reminder that Evans had much more depth as a performer than just playing Captain America. Both have been very good before, and hopefully they will be very good again. As long as they have good scripts, that is, because “Ghosted” unfortunately isn’t.
Considering it only takes 105 minutes before the end credits roll, “Ghosted” ends up taking too long to get past its throat-clearing setup. Evans plays Cole, a needy guy whose true passion is growing plants, but who struggles to maintain a long-term relationship. De Armas is Sadie, who claims to be an international art curator and has had issues with her romantic past. However, the operative word here is “says”; they have a cute, somewhat spiky encounter, a nice romp in the sheets, and then Sadie seems to be embodying the film’s title by not responding to Cole’s many follow-up texts. When he goes to London on a whim to find her (after inadvertently leaving her inhaler in her bag and being able to trace it on her cell phone), he is shocked to learn that Sadie is not an art curator but an agent of the police. CIA, and is now embroiled in an international battle over a mysterious but powerful weapon.
The film’s high concept, with a script credited to Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, is easy enough to take, but only up to a point. The meta aspects of what is supposed to make the main concept fun – wouldn’t it be great if Captain America was the only one out of his league in an action movie setting? – Only going as far as knowing that Chris Evans has proven his worth in genre films now means two things. First, it’s safe to assume that Cole will end up holding his own in some action sequences at the end (which he does), and second, knowing that Chris Evans has bona fide action movies makes it harder to buy the inability of Cole. stay strong to the end. Perhaps if the casting went to the other extreme, with someone relatively out of reach in action movies like Seth Rogen, it would be too much in the other direction. But Evans and de Armas seem like pretty standard trouble in terms of getting involved in the action, making the preparation for their eventual dual battles rather rote and uninspiring.
A love story without chemistry
But then, the word “not involve” is better applied to the other half of “Ghosted.” On paper, Chris Evans and Ana de Armas would seem like the perfect romantic comedy couple, but their chemistry in this film is non-existent. Part of this is that the script does them absolutely no favours; At first, the banter between the two is meant to be charming, but ends up being obnoxious and loud. It doesn’t help that the characters constantly tell Cole and Sadie to “get a room” (a suggestion given at three separate points), and that their sexual tension is off the charts. Usually, if someone has to tell the characters that their sexual tension is off the charts, it means the exact opposite. It should work and yet it doesn’t.
The same is true pretty much across the board in “Ghosted.” Attempts at funny cameos, such as in a scene where Cole and Sadie are captured by a bounty hunter, only to be captured again by other bounty hunter, and then other Bounty Hunters, all of whom are played by highly recognizable actors, come across as less witty and more like a feeble attempt to make the most of a lifeless story. Even the various needle drops seem to vacillate between unnecessarily simplistic (as when “My Sharona” pops up during a cliff chase) and desperate (as when a Beatles song is heard after it’s constantly mentioned in the script).
The combination of familiar modern faces, uninspired action, and fake-funny stabs of humor make it somewhat of a shock that this isn’t a Netflix original movie. Many of the players involved here have recently appeared on Netflix fare, from Evans with “The Gray Man” to de Armas with “Blonde” and some of the cameos (although mentioning them here would spoil something that can still serve as one of the only legitimate surprises that can be had). This movie has all the hallmarks of that streaming service’s original fare, in that it’s only technically original and feels heavily indebted to better movies, better actors, and better stories. Could there be a version of “Ghosted,” in which a civilian has a relationship with a spy and ends up in international intrigue, that works? Possibly, and possibly even with the same main actors. But you can only do so much when the script lets you down from the first page.
/Movie rating: 3 out of 10
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Ghosted Review: A High Concept In Search of Good Writing appeared first on /Film.