Directed by Dexter Fletcher | Written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Chris McKenna, and Erik Sommers | 116 min | ▲△△△△ | Apple TV+
I was pretty sure this was gonna be a difficult watch when someone says, “I think she might be the one!” It’s a line by Chris Evans’ character early on in Ghosted, which has the dubious status of being one of the worst mainstream Hollywood products I’ve sat through in a long time. Everyone involved should be firing their agents, especially the leads.
I mean, Chris Evans and Ana de Armas were great together in Knives Out, and were the best things in the otherwise just-OK Netflix blockbuster The Gray Man. So why is this is so awful? How did a script this limp have four writers? The movie is terrible in ways that feel even more egregious because Apple has obviously thrown a lot of money at it.
It’s another comedic spy thriller, but really it’s a romantic comedy spotted with action set-pieces. It’s a romcom like they make on the Hallmark Channel, one that has all the depth and entertainment value of a skincare commercial.
Cole is a recently heartbroken farmer and agricultural history student — I shit you not — whose mom (Amy Sedaris) says is a hopeless romantic, as if that justifies his fondness for the worst cliches. Sadie (de Armas) is a singleton who meets Cole at a market. He asks her out and they have a great day together wandering around Georgetown, including a scene where they run up the Exorcist steps. I was hoping the explicit mentioning of that movie – which Sadie admits she hasn’t seen — would mean there’d be a funny callback later on. Maybe her head would start spinning, or she’d barf pea soup. Just one of the many disappointments.
Of course, it turns out she’s a CIA agent, and when Cole uses an app to track her (don’t ask) to London, he’s mistaken for her cover persona, The Taxman. (If you wanted to get absolutely blotto, you could try a drinking game where you watch Ghosted and do a shot every time someone says, “Taxman.”)
Cole and Sadie end up in the Khyber Pass — as one does — where she kills a bunch of henchpeople trying to track down a deadly bio-weapon called the Aztec, and somehow Adrien Brody doing an awful accent is involved.
As we go along, rather than Cole being entirely befuddled and out of his depth in the presence of Sadie, a stone-cold killer, he’s actually surprisingly capable, which kills a lot of the possible fun. If he’s not a total liability and making every situation worse with his lack of experience, where’s the humour coming from? Well, they try to make it about the way they annoy each other while they have sizzling hot chemistry (they must because everyone keeps telling them to “get a room”) but all that just ends up annoying us watching at home.
We get a decent gag where a series of highly recognizable bounty hunters — played by Anthony Mackie, John Cho, and Sebastian Stan — try to capture Cole and Sadie but just end up killing each other. That goofy, Rat Pack-styled humour is maybe the most joyful thing going on here — and gets replicated later on with Ryan Reynolds, who’s become the king of the celebrity cameo. It just serves to reminds us how hollow the rest of this caper is. If the comedy and relentless bickering between the leads isn’t working, you’d hope the action would at least hold the interest, but it’s badly choreographed, hokey, and smudged with unconvincing CGI.
Anecdotally, I’ve heard that this is just the most recent in a long line of movies dropping on streaming services where you don’t really need to “pay attention” to “enjoy it,” the cinematic version of muzak. You can look at your phone or do laundry and even if you miss a lot of it, you’ll still know what’s going on. Even the idea of this makes me a little queasy.
Coming back to the leads, this project was initially conceived as a Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson action comedy. Given the strength of their work together in the MCU I can’t help but think that might’ve made for a stronger result.
But, after further consideration, I don’t think the problem here is Ana de Armas, who always brings a lot of charm. It’s Evans. While he’s got plenty of charisma, as always, he doesn’t convince as a starry-eyed, down home fella with dirt under his nails. He’s way too capable, a little too bro-y, and not actually that funny. Imagine instead if they’d gotten Channing Tatum or Zachary Levi, someone burly who could more plausibly play both a redneck and a schmo?
Ah, who am I kidding? None of that would’ve likely made much of a difference. Ghosted is just best ignored.