Year: 2013
Studio: Universal
Director: Robert Schwentke
Writer: Phil Hay/Matt Manfredi/David Dobkin/Peter M Lenkov/Lucas Marangon
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Mary Louise Parker, Kevin Bacon, James Hong, Marisa Miller

The only thing I remember about this movie was the awareness in the industry at the time about what a flop it was. It also seemed like the final nail in a previously promising career for Ryan Reynolds, who hadn't had a decent hit in years, had only recently toplined the much maligned The Green Lantern and whose star seemed to be fading before Deadpool propelled him to the top of the Hollywood tree.

It's the story of a slick young neophyte cop and a gruff older partner showing him the ropes in a supernatural world he never imagined, and if nobody at the time called it Dead Men in Black, they should have.

Reynolds is Nick, a mostly good cop who's slightly on the take with partner Hayes (Kevin Bacon). Driven by guilt and wanting to be a better man, husband and cop, he tells Hayes he's out, not realising he's signing his own death warrant. Hayes is more dangerous than Nick realises because of the nefarious figures Hayes himself is in bed with, and he takes the opportunity during a tense warehouse sting to gun Nick down before he does any more damage to the lucrative opportunity coming up thanks to some ancient artefact.

Nick finds himself in an afterlife and is transported to a place that's high tech, sleek, blinding white and otherwise looks much like the one he knows of desks, offices and investigators running everywhere. It's populated, his handler Mary Louise Parker explains, by a specialised ghost police force that polices the activities of spirits who want to disrupt the world of the living, and his new partner, Western-era Sheriff Roy (Jeff Bridges, playing it as gruffly and coyboyish as he ever had), is none too happy at working with a noob.

After the requisite first act set-up of showing Nick the amazing new world/powers/characters/CGI he now inhabits, the story's on as the artefact Hayes has been fencing (and which he killed Nick over) is part of a some Macguffin that's going to open a portal and bring the dead back to take over the world or some such seen-it-all, end-of-the-world nonsense.

And if you don't guess at some point (most likely when the movie starts) that the bickering couple are going to learn to work together, use their respective skills to complement each other's styles and go from begrudgement to bickery friendship, you've probably never been to the movies.

There are a few interesting ideas from director Robert Schwentke like when Nick's just been executed and wanders around the warehouse with bodies, explosions and gunfire having all been frozen in time as they fly everywhere, and there's enough of a smattering of language and violence to keep it from being the bland version for 12 year olds this story could have been, but there's still little to recommend it and you've seen it a hundred times.

What you've never seen is Kevin Bacon in full CGI blockbuster mode, VFX transforming him into an otherworldly creature. It's not that you only want to see him in indie or drama films, but having him in big adventure fare, subjected to a script and a digital make-over like this does feel a bit off kilter.

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