“They” don’t often make movies like Ghosted (now on Apple TV+) anymore: Slick, stylish and expensive action-rom-coms starring disarmingly attractive people who do ludicrous things like bickering over who fibbed about what at the same time they’re forcibly putting bullets and knives into the bodies of legions of faceless bad guys until the bad guys are dead. In this case, the disarmingly attractive people are Ana de Armas and Chris Evans, directed by Dexter Fletcher, famous for helming Elton John biopic Rocketman, and replacing Bryan Singer in the director’s chair for Bohemian Rhapsody. In other words, everyone here knows what they’re doing with a lot of studio cash, which prompts two questions: Are they using that cash wisely, i.e., for the purpose of making a decent movie? And why is this going direct to streaming instead of being theatrically released in mid-July so we can enjoy the air conditioning, since movies like this exist for that very reason?
GHOSTED: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: The scene: A farmer’s market near Washington, D.C. Sadie (de Armas) is a loner who’s single and travels a lot for work and has a cold, empty apartment. Advice from a friend: Try a houseplant. She tries to buy a begonia from Cole (Evans), but once he chats her up and learns she’s gone all the time, he refuses to sell it to her. He’s convinced it’ll die in her care and he can’t in good conscience let that happen. They bicker and argue and he tries to sell her a cactus and she huffs off, and when a fellow vendor points out to Cole that the sexual tension between them was cuckoo-bananas monkeyhouse wackadoo, he runs after her and asks her out. So they go for coffee, and then to the art museum, and then dinner, and then to a nightclub, and then to her place, where they culminate their emotional clicking with some physical clicking. During this Before Sunrise-type whirlwind, we learn that he’s a farmer living in his parents’ guest house, helping them work the land, and she’s an art curator who often up and travels for weeks at a time, at a moment’s notice. Thus, established: Country boy, jetsetting girl. IT’LL NEVER WORK.
Cole goes home and is mercilessly ribbed by his family about how he tends to be clingy with the ladies. But he only texted Sadie three times, and the emoji stuff doesn’t count, he insists. And then he texts some more and some more and some more and she doesn’t reply and it looks like Sadie’s title-of-the-movie-ing him. But! His inhaler is in her purse, and he puts a little digital tracker in it so he won’t lose it. He determines she’s in London, and throws caution to the wind and hops a flight and tracks her down and tells himself he’s being romantic and not a stalker and then all of a sudden three goons surround him and drug him and take him to an underground lair where a sneering weirdo villain played by Tim Blake Nelson intends to torture him with various terrifying insects. Welp. That took a turn.
And it’ll take another, since Sadie isn’t really an art curator – she’s a spy! See eye ay! And she makes John Wick look like, well, John Wick, because he’s the best. But she’s damn good, martial-artsing mofos, shooting ’em dead, knifing this one, cracking that one’s neck. And in order to escape this movie set teeming with gormless minion bad guys and murder hornets, Cole is gonna have to carry a gun. They blast their way out and this is when Cole realizes they’re in Pakistan, and she’s less interested in keeping him safe than sticking to her mission, which, sigh, demands that she acquire a briefcase containing a deadly chemical weapon that a bad guy, played by Adrien Brody with a ludicrous Russian accent, is trying to sell to an even badder guy, except the case is locked and nobody knows the code. Anyway, when Sadie and Cole aren’t finding themselves in hair-raising action sequences, they’re – no, not doin’ it. They’re bickering and bantering like two people who obviously are in luurve with each other but don’t want to admit it. And sometimes they bicker and banter as the bullets whiz by. And that’s why there’s a running joke that any objective observer of their behavior inevitably recites the line, “You two should get a room.”
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: It’s worth noting that Evans and de Armas previously co-starred in Knives Out and The Gray Man, but that’s where the comparisons to Ghosted end. No, it’s more like sexy-tension shoot-’em-ups a la Knight and Day, Mr. and Mrs. Smith or, if you’re really dredging up the slop, Jennifer Aniston/Gerard Butler suckfest The Bounty Hunter.
Performance Worth Watching:
Memorable Dialogue: During one verbal volley, Cole admonishes Sadie, “Don’t use ‘stalker’ as a verb!” Which, as you may have already deduced, is the punchline to a setup in which she uses “stalker” as a verb. Which is just a hack-ass joke in the first place, but it’s fairly representative of this hack-ass script.
Sex and Skin: Cole and Sadie make giggling lumps under the sheets, but anyone expecting more skin from these incredibly gorgeous people will be disappointed.
Our Take: Ghosted just plain doesn’t work. It sets up the love story and surrounds it with a Spy Shit plot that we might be able to endure if Evans and de Armas were set up to succeed, which they’re not. Sometimes you can blame “bad chemistry” on the actors, but in this case, the script utterly fails them. It’s either been punched-up to death by its four credited writers, or needs a fifth or sixth to work past all the hacky banter that feels like everyone’s trying too damn hard to be funny instead of actually being funny. Maybe the parody of a focus group from The Simpsons f—ed it up, or the studio meddled with it. Whatever happened, these two highly talented A-listers are trying to dance a samba while the script plays prog rock, so of course it’s going to be clunky and awkward.
Otherwise, the film suffers from dated extravaganzaism: Celeb cameos, DOA running jokes, stupidly elaborate action set pieces, dumb plot twists, etc. Someone will praise it for reversing the usual gender roles by having the actress play the badass killer and the actor – the actor who played Captain freaking America even – but that someone will not have actually watched the movie, and therefore endured its unapologetic cliches, eyerollingly ludicrous action (including a car chase that’s one Nazi away from outright ripping off Raiders of the Lost Ark) and Brody’s OTT villain, who makes Snidely Whiplash look like Droopy Dog. How creatively bankrupt is this movie? It contrives to strand our bickering lovers on a desert island (yes, groan), and also seats them across the table for dueling polygraph tests so everybody can cut through the bullshit of their sniping and learn how they really feel about each other (you may groan again). It’s like someone took a New Yorker cartoon and turned it into The Tourist. If its “clever” ideas were any more ancient, they’d be wrapped in linen and buried in an Egyptian tomb. This movie is annoying and loud and definitely needs to get a room, and be locked from the outside with furniture piled against the door, and the key fed to a passing sperm whale.
Our Call: Waste of talent! SKIP IT.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.