Ghosted title image
Director
Cast
, , , , , , , , ,
Rated
PG-13
Runtime
116 min.
Release Date
04/21/2023
Ghosted poster

Hey, ChatGPT. Write a screenplay about a single farmer who asks a woman out on a date. They spend a day falling for one another, then sleep together. But then he sends her a bunch of needy, uncool texts. When she doesn’t respond, he tracks her down and discovers she’s a superspy. Then he becomes involved in her mission to recover a deadly virus from international bad guys. Give the virus an exotic name, like Aztec, maybe? Eventually, they fall in love, despite his smothering. He also helps her secure the virus, using his high-school wrestling skills. Be sure to include a lot of gunfights and playful banter throughout. Set the climax in a revolving restaurant that goes out of control, like the Gravitron at an amusement park. But please only use the word “fuck” once because we want this to be PG-13.

Ghosted is the kind of empty Hollywood product that makes you wonder whether screenwriters are already using artificial intelligence to write their scripts. The movie is such a predictable, by-the-numbers affair; the only reasonable explanation for the result is that a computer tried to approximate human speech patterns and failed miserably. The film pairs Ana de Armas and Chris Evans once more, after Knives Out (2019) and The Gray Man (2022)—a winning onscreen duo, to be sure. But onscreen chemistry requires more than two very attractive leads to function, and the sausage-fest foursome of screenwriters haven’t given their stars anything interesting to do or say. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, writers of Zombieland (2009) and Deadpool (2013), receive screenplay credit alongside Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers. The result feels pieced together from True Lies (1994) and Knight and Day (2010), but with the gender roles reversed. That concept alone isn’t necessarily bad, but the execution feels spiritless and artificial. 

Evans plays Cole Riggan, who works on his family’s farm and runs an organic vegetable stand. His family, including his teen sister (Lizze Broadway) and supportive parents (Amy Sedaris, Tate Donovan), know Cole has a history of suffocating girlfriends with attention until they leave. So after he meets and spends a day with the supposed art curator, Sadie (de Armas), and she goes silent, everyone assumes he’s done it again. But then he decides to locate her, using a tracking device on his inhaler, which he left in her purse. He arrives in London for what he hopes will be a romantic gesture, but instead, he finds himself captured by goons, headed by Tim Blake Nelson, doing a nondescript European accent. Nelson’s character thinks Cole is a mysterious contact known as The Taxman, and he has a lair filled with CGI insects that he intends to use on Cole to extract information. Right before he attaches a Murder Hornet to Cole’s face, Sadie arrives, guns blazing, to save the day. 

From here, it’s a race across the globe to recover a biological weapon from a nefarious arms dealer, Leveque, played by Adrien Brody, whose French accent belongs in a parody movie. Along the way, Cole and Sadie bicker about their would-be coupling, Cole’s stalkery behavior, and Sadie’s aversion to commitment. It’s all realized through a lame plant metaphor involving a cactus. Other characters who observe them together keep remarking about the “sexual tension in the room,” but we don’t see it. Not even the stars’ good looks can gloss over the lack of spark between them. Sure, Evans’ perfectly coifed hair remains intact despite a series of shootouts and explosions. De Armas’ makeup never looks less than perfect, though the wig was a bad choice. But their characters are empty, and their dialogue includes a lot of repetitive exclamations: “You are unbelievable!” and “This is unbelievable!”

Dexter Fletcher directs, and in lieu of actual fun, he deploys a soundtrack with upbeat needle drops from The Knack’s “My Sharona” to Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl.” The action sequences feature a distracting amount of cheap-looking computer animation, leaving the work of cinematographer Salvatore Totino spoiled by digital trickery. For PG-13 fare, there’s a surprising amount of death onscreen, mostly gunshots to the head. However, at least one sequence featuring a procession of deaths proves funny, primarily because of a few MCU reunion cameos, which I won’t spoil here. Evans has some amusing moments early on when he tries to avoid gunfire while dragging his carry-on luggage. But otherwise, the rom-com energy meter holds at a one, offering contrived moments such as a two-person polygraph where the characters’ feelings are awkwardly revealed before a room full of CIA agents. And also, once things get going, there’s never another mention of Cole’s inhaler.

Ghosted debuts on AppleTV Plus. Streamers have an affection for broad action-comedies with a romantic twist. But most of them are downright awful. Netflix’s Red Notice (2021) was an unbelievable waste of 200 million dollars, and the less said about the two Murder Mystery movies (2019, 2023), the better. Although Ghosted was made for much less—an estimated $40 million—the sense that the filmmakers misspent fewer budgetary dollars than its counterparts is only a slight relief. Worse, the movie squanders two likable stars. I hoped this would be the movie where de Armas would emerge as an action hero since her actionized supporting roles in No Time to Die (2021) and The Gray Man were so promising. Alas, Ghosted is a reminder that movies require more than a proven Hollywood template and big-name stars to work.

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