Principal Cast : Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Adrien Brody, Mike Moh, Amy Sedaris, Tate Donovan, Tim Blake Nelson, Marwan Kenzari, Anna Deavere Smith, Lizzie Broadway, Mustafa Shakir, Stephen Park.
Synopsis: Cole falls head over heels for enigmatic Sadie, but then makes the shocking discovery that she’s a secret agent. Before they can decide on a second date, Cole and Sadie are swept away on an international adventure to save the world.
Archetypal “guy falls for a girl who happens to be a spy” clichés abound in Dexter Fletcher’s unfortunately awful Ghosted, a film in which we’re meant to believe that Ana de Armas is the world’s most useless covert CIA operative and Chris Evans… is a farmer? For all it’s billions of dollars pushed towards new film production, Apple should be hoping the rest of the projects on its upcoming slate are nowhere near as bad as this; Ghosted is a mess, a disaster of a film led by unconvincing leads, dreadful writing and an atonal wit that’s neither funny or engaging. It’s as if the people behind the camera had honestly never made a film before, the camerawork is asinine, the editing laboured, the forced “romance” angle between Evans and de Armas an affront to decent cinema, and the onslaught of meaningless cameos (from mostly Marvel stars no doubt called in by former Captain America Evans) is a shrill wail of desperation from everyone involved.
Evans plays Cole Turner (referred to as Coleslaw by his on-screen family) who bumps into undercover CIA operative Sadie Rodes (Ana de Armas) while she’s picking up produce at a local farmer’s market. The two strike up a love-hate romance and he ends up spending the night. However, the next few days Sadie remains out of touch, leading to Cole jumping on a plane to London (having accidentally left an ashma inhaler in her purse with an Apple tracker on it) to romantically swep her off her feet – until, that is, he’s kidnapped by mercenaries in a case of mistaken identity, and assumed to be a operative known as the Taxman. The mercenaries are led by villain Leveque (Adrien Brody), who wants a device known as the Aztec to give to a powerful underworld figure in Mr Utami (Stephen Park), and will stop at nothing to prise the combination to a suitcase containing the device from Cole’s mind, if only he can escape long enough to stop them all.
Ghosted is an onslaught of poor decisions, both in front of and behind the camera. Chris Evans was supposed to star in this alongside Scarlett Johansson, which might have made for a much better film because both those actors at least have chemistry together; sadly, Evans and eventual co-star de Armas have the screen sizzle of a wet rag, the utter absence of romance or interest so profound it could fracture the space/time continuum. De Armas isn’t a poor actor – her work in Blonde showcased that even in shit films she’s able to deliver a memorable turn – and Evans, when given the right material, is also up to challenging for decent performances, but the way this film is written is so poor, so shoddily constructed and so palpably risible there’s no chance for either of them to showcase their talents. The fact that both Cole and Sadie are awful character in and of themselves doesn’t help either: Cole spends most of his time being a putz, while Sadie’s inherent sociopathy lacks any endearing quality to make us want to see them end up together. Their passionless romantic scenes feel like watching two blocks of dry granite scrape together.
But it’s the writing that’s so egregious here. The screenplay is credited to Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, all of whom come to this project with some seriously good credentials (there’s about twelve popular comic book movie scripts between this quartet, and none of them bad!) and absolutely, unequivocally, undeniably, fumble this one so badly I’d describe it as a “career killer” if I knew they weren’t already failing upwards anyway. The story’s tone lurches from shitty Hallmark romance to shitty reverse Jason Bourne rip-off so badly your head will spin around, with astoundingly asinine jokes, gags and throwaway cameo appearances that are in no way amusing and in every way risible. These guys know how to write good movies, but this is one of those paycheck kind of efforts and it’s hidden pretty poorly. The action sequences feel too derivative, an incestuous combination of Netflix’ cow-turd in Red Notice and an el-cheapo Jason Statham B-movie, and despite Fletcher’s commendably energetic and incomprehensibly unbelievable climax (involving a rotating restaurant atop a highrise building that has some serious torque when the clutch is engaged!) the pastiche of John Wick, Deadpool and Michael Bay dick humour just doesn’t work. Like, ever, at all.
With a plot that’s as convoluted as a New York Times crossword and a series of terrible character choices by both leads, that leaves us with the orgy of supporting cast who populate this trash. Adrien Brody is clearly the only one who gets the joke and plays his Bad Guy for all it’s worth, almost twirling his moustache with melodramatic vaudevillian glee as he struts across the screen. Sadly, he’s in a film that does him no favours, and his take on underhanded mastermind is limited by – again – the writing, which is, again, awful. Tim Blake Nelson pops in as a short-lived Russian gangster, Burn Gorman plays a laughably on-the-nose London cabbie, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan pass by quickly as mercenary bounty hunters, John Cho and Stephen Park representing poorly thought-out Asian stereotypes, and even Ryan Reynolds came in for a half-day filming that stops the film’s climax dead for about five minutes. Tate Donovan and Amy Sedaris play unsupportive supporting parents of Cole’s who feel like they have backstory to deliver but aren’t given a chance. It’s all a disastrous clash of ambivalence, a mixmaster set of gags and jokes that simply lack the heft to work, thrust in a film so busy being frenetic it forgets to be intelligent. Remember, Dexter Fletcher salvaged a half finished Bohemian Rhapsody and gave us the quite excellent Rocketman, so he’s not totally without some skill, but this film feels like he jerked it off on a Sunday afternoon thinking about Taron Egerton and Rami Malek in some dreamy three-way tryst. What the hell happened here, man?
Ghosted might just be one of the worst films of 2023. At least one of the worst films of the year in which people gave the impression they were trying to make a quality movie. For me, Ghosted plays like an obvious tax write-off for Apple, because there’s no way they seriously looked at this and felt it was a quality way to spend their money. Skydance, the producing studio behind the film, certainly should hang its head in shame that they took Apple’s cash and created… whatever this shit is. Because Ghosted is absolute unmitigated shit. A garbage film made by people who hate success.