Ghosted is a big-budget, star-studded action-romance premiering on Apple TV+ Apr. 21, although a more fitting destination for it would be a dark closet on a high shelf where no one might ever find it.
Featuring not a single convincing element or exchange, this fiasco plays like a wannabe-Knight and Day exercise in eliciting annoyed reactions: groans for its awful one-liners, exclamations for its moronic plot twists, and eyerolls for its terrible CGI and desperate cameos. It feels like ChatGPT wrote it, and the fact that it didn’t is all the more damning for those who did.
The responsible scribes in question would be the duos behind the Deadpool films (Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick) and Marvel’s recent Spider-Man trilogy (Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers), who bring none of those predecessors’ wit and charm to this derivative undertaking.
Directed with maximum clunkiness by Rocketman’s Dexter Fletcher, Ghosted concerns the dreary adventure of two characters who are completely unreal and share zero chemistry. Chris Evans is Cole, a farmer who works for his parents (Tate Donovan and Amy Sedaris, who must have had him when they were quite young) and spends his time being a jerk to customers at the local farmer’s market.
Evans couldn’t be less believable as an agriculturalist if he tried; his coiffed hair, neatly trimmed beard and buff physique scream “lawyer” (if not “aspiring actor”). He’s matched in implausibility by Ana de Armas as Sadie, a single woman who wears a variety of stylish outfits and claims to be an art curator (her favorite painter, she unpersuasively states, is Monet), which seems about as authentic as her long, flowing wig.
Cole and Sadie’s meet-cute involves pained banter about the latter’s inability to care for a houseplant (because she’s always away on business), thereby giving birth to a running bit about a cactus that’s emblematic of the proceedings’ humorlessness. Rarely have two attractive stars generated fewer sparks together, in part because Ghosted’s script falls flat with every line of dialogue.
When Cole’s friend spurs him to pursue Sadie because “the sexual tension was off the charts,” it’s as if the film is actively gaslighting its audience, whereas later conversations resort to the most heavy-handed exposition conceivable. “I think that the trips that you plan the least are the ones that give you the most,” says Cole at the end of the pair’s day-long first-date—one of innumerable theme-peddling pronouncements that inspire the urge to gag.
Cole cares about people and is too cowardly to leave home whereas Sadie is a globe-trotting loner who fears commitment. Following their “magical” first date, he becomes worried and frustrated when his innumerable texts (and “light emoji stuff,” which he learns counts as additional texts) go unanswered.
In response to receiving the cold shoulder, Cole makes the far-fetched decision to travel to London to surprise Sadie (“a grand romantic gesture”). There, he’s kidnapped and held hostage by a group of baddies—led by Tim Blake Nelson, sporting a thick Russian accent—who think he’s a super-agent known as The Taxman, and plan to torture him with exotic insects in order to get a coveted passcode. Before any of that can take place, though, Cole is saved by the actual Taxman, who—“spoiler alert”—is Sadie. To be fair, de Armas is more credible as a spy than as an art curator. The action that ensues, however, is of a third-rate nature, clumsily balancing brutality and comedy, and embellished with computer-generated effects that grow chintzier with each successive application.
Sadie and Cole bicker incessantly in Ghosted about how she lied to him and he’s a clingy complication for her mission, and the dreadfulness of their back-and-forths is so immense as to be borderline impressive. The film’s lack of imagination is epitomized by three separate supporting characters responding to Sadie and Cole’s argumentativeness by quipping, “You two need to get a room.” Yet somehow, that’s not even the worst of it.
Adrien Brody plays a French baddie named Leveque who speaks like a cartoon (“We cannot. Afford. This-a kind. Of failure!”) and seeks a bioweapon known as Aztec that he’s intent on selling to random evil individuals. That device should be a simple MacGuffin (i.e., a generic plot device designed to keep things moving forward). Yet Reese, Wernick, McKenna, and Sommers’ script instead spends inordinate amounts of time talking about its ins and outs, burying any momentum or laughs beneath mountains of pointless gobbledygook.
Along their journey, Sadie and Cole battle baddies on a bus, encounter a foreign agent (one of Sadie’s exes) who has a mechanical hand because Ghosted wants to make a masturbation joke, and contend with assassins embodied by famous faces in brief wink-wink appearances. There’s endless chit-chat about what has to be done, where everyone has to go, and why Aztec is so important, but it all quickly comes to sound like white noise being emitted by actors who are trying too hard to transform subpar mush into something amiable.
Even more astonishing, the film repeatedly has characters mistake Cole for the Taxman because de Armas is a woman, and yet the film doesn’t even try to do anything with this sexist angle—save, that is, for a late “you-go-guy!” instance of Cole proudly proclaiming, “I’m the boyfriend!”
Ghosted is the type of leaden affair that plays The Beatles’ “Taxman” during its final fight (because, you see, that’s de Armas’ nickname!). Its climax, set in a high-rise’s rotating restaurant, is a monument to rushed and crummy CGI, as well as flat action choreography that’s neither thrilling nor funny. Both Evans and de Armas are wholly wrong for, and better than, this material, and their strained performances just manage to make everything worse. Only Brody, now fully in his over-the-top villainous phase (following Poker Face, See How They Run, and Peaky Blinders), seems to understand what’s needed here, although he too is ultimately undercut by a screenplay devoid of inspiration.
Bemoaning his status as a mere cog in a larger criminal machine, Brody’s scoundrel laments, “What are we? Instruments. Expendable. We deserve better.” The same might be said about actors, and especially those found in this dismal dud.
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