GHOSTED Review: Light, Breezy, Disposable Genre Entry
Ana de Armas and Chris Evans star in an action adventure, directed by Dexter Fletcher, debuting on Apple TV+.
Chris Evans’s post-Marvel acting career has been — at least for now — a relatively quiet one.
After essaying the smug, smarmy, self-satisfied villain in Rian Johnson’s hit mystery-thriller, Knives Out, Evans played the ultimate frat-bro-as-sociopath in The Gray Man, a bloated, otherwise forgettable franchise starter, starring a slightly bored Ryan Gosling in the title role.
His latest film, Ghosted, doesn’t exactly count as a stretch of Evans’s acting talents, relying as it does on Evans’ straight-arrow persona, but at least it plays him off against Oscar-nominated Ana de Armas in a light, breezy, ultimately disposable genre entry, one part comedy, one part romance, and one (last) part action.
Opening with de Armas’s character, Sadie Rhodes, a CIA field agent and all-around super-spy, anxiously discussing life goals with her therapist on her car phone, Ghosted then switches to Evans’s character, the generically named Cole Turner, a thirty-something farmer and part-time historian. It’s clear Sadie needs a vacation from her high-pressure, high-stakes career while Cole, an unadventurous sort who puts far too much of himself into his romantic relationships and the family business, needs to break out of a rut of his own. In Cole’s case, Sadie represents — or will eventually represent — everything missing from his humdrum, concern-free, middle-class life.
Cole and Sadie, of course, are bound to “meet cute,” in rom-com parlance. They do while Cole, working alone at his family’s table during a local farmer’s market, sells a reluctant Sadie on a new houseplant.
In an over-obvious metaphor Ghosted exploits ad infinitum and ad nauseum, Cole and Sadie verbally dance around the idea of Sadie’s biggest fear: commitment. As Sadie travels for her job as an “art curator,” she needs a low-maintenance house plant, eventually settling on a garden-variety cactus.
Apparently, the houseplant convo passes for romantic foreplay in Ghosted. Almost immediately, Cole and Sadie have their first date, a coffee break, that segues into a familiar standby for the early party of a romantic relationship, a visit to the National Art Gallery (Washington, D.C.), followed by dinner, and so forth.
It’s only when Cole, by his own reluctant admission and everyone else’s around him, lets his neediness show (too many texts in too short of a time period), that Ghosted takes the first, but by no means last, dubious plot turn, especially for a romantic hero: conveniently uncovering Sadie’s whereabouts (London), he decides on a whim to surprise her as some kind of romantic gesture.
By any definition, Cole’s behavior seriously crosses over into stalker behavior. In an intentional narrative move, Cole's surprise visit becomes a subject of discussion, first on a cab ride in London and later, when circumstances dictate Cole and Sadie have no choice but to share the remainder of the film together, but it’s never satisfactorily answered or resolved, leaving audiences on the other side of the screen to either shrug their shoulders and accept Cole’s behavior as somehow relatable or reach for the remote and find something else to stream that particular evening or any subsequent one.
Stalker or not, Cole finds himself firmly ensconced as Ghosted’s “dude in distress” with Sadie, ever the efficient super-spy, eliminating all manner of faceless henchmen bloodlessly, as a rogue French intelligence officer turned arms dealer, Leveque (played with mustache-twirling glee by Academy Award winner Adrien Brody), attempts to recover the all-important four-part password that will unlock a briefcase containing the Great Whatsit (aka, MacGuffin).
As a bickering Cole and Sadie work out the parameters of their still undefined relationship, The Great Whatsit functions as an all-purpose motivator for everyone involved, leading to a handful of modest set pieces on the ground, in the air, and then back on the ground. Only an early set piece involving a long and winding mountain road, Sadie effortlessly driving a newly requisitioned bus, and well-armed, poorly shooting, jeep-riding mercenaries, stands out amidst the overall action blandness. The others, the first involving Tim Blake Nelson as a professional torturer, a random assortment of caves, and Cole’s constant state of surprise, barely rise above the level of competence.
If nothing else (and there really is nothing else), Ghosted keeps Cole and Sadie — and by extension, Evans and de Armas — front and center in practically every scene. Their incessant “comedic” bickering might not amount to much in the grand scheme of story things or include a single memorable line of dialogue, but at least Evans and de Armas’s on-screen chemistry helps overcome a multitude of dead spots in the otherwise underwhelming script.
Due, in part, to his decade-long Marvel association, but also his general level of fitness, Evans never quite convinces as the initially hapless Cole, surviving only by luck or Sadie’s timely interventions. Halfway through, Ghosted stops bothering altogether and allows Cole to become an action-hero who can handle himself mano-a-mano with Leveque’s henchmen.
Ghosted debuts worldwide Friday, April 21, on Apple TV+.
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