New Apple TV+ action movie Ghosted is probably the most fake movie you’ll see this year, if indeed you decide to punish yourself by watching it. Slackly paced, howlingly unfunny, acted in complete boredom and frustration, and deeply uninterested in the handful of genres it touches upon, it’s maddeningly devoid of anything resembling a spark of creativity or charisma.
The flick boast some big-name stars, including Chris Evans and Ana de Armas, but Apple kept this one away from critics until the day before release for a very good reason.
Sadie (played by Ana de Armas) is feeling the alienation that comes with her job as a CIA spook. (She tells people she’s an art curator. This is meant to be a twist, but it’s in the Ghosted trailer, so it doesn’t really count as one anymore.) One of her colleagues just died, and Sadie recalls the very dreary apartment she occupied. It reminds her of her own. Maybe she needs a change.
Then she meets Cole (Chris Evans) at a farmer’s market. He’s minding someone’s booth when Sadie comes over and asks to buy a plant, but he’s reluctant to sell it to her because she says she’s not home very often. They get into a nasty spat but he runs after her to apologize, then asks her out. They spend a whirlwind day together in D.C. going to the National Gallery of Art, walking the National Mall and doing karaoke. Then they sleep together.
Love, texts and an impromptu trip to London
Later, when he tells his family (Amy Sedaris, Tate Donovan and Lizze Broadway) that he’s in love, they tell him to take it easy. He’s very clingy and smothering. Then he starts texting Sadie. Texting and texting and texting. Days pass and she never responds. He then realizes he left his inhaler in her purse, and I guess he somehow has it attached to some kind of homing beacon app (sure…), and he sees that she’s in London. So he decides, to prove that he’s low maintenance and chill, to fly there and surprise her.
However, just when Cole’s about to track down Sadie, someone else gets to him first. He’s assailed by three burly men, then drugged. He wakes up in a torture cave in Pakistan run by an eccentric European (Tim Blake Nelson) who thinks Cole is a nefarious special agent who goes by the nickname The Taxman.
His protestations of innocence fall on deaf ears until the real Taxman shows up to save him. The Taxman is, of course, Sadie. Not only is he now in the middle of an international espionage incident, but he and his would-be girlfriend are going to have a long talk about trust.
Are you serious with this crap?
Ghosted is two hours long but it feels like 24. It took four writers to come up with the inane dialogue. Erik Sommers and Chris McKenna write Marvel movies for a living, and Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick wrote the truly terrible Spiderhead and the insufferable Deadpool movies.
The curious thing is that Ghosted could have been written by a computer. If AI can code up an iOS app, why couldn’t it crank out a soulless script? There isn’t a single detail or line of dialogue in Ghosted that didn’t come from either the Screwball Comedy Playbook (a 16th-hand copy of it, at any rate) or the Big Book of Action Movie Cliches.
It’s absolutely wild to see something with two of the world’s biggest movie stars where they neither say or do anything memorable. It’s truly like watching a high school short film with a ludicrous budget.
Chris Evans and Ana de Armas are no match for this dull script
Chris Evans sadly sort of tries to imbue his thinly written lovesick dope with something resembling real emotion. But he’s spent the last decade acting in front of green screens with other millionaires. Apparently he forgot what real emotion looks like or how to get a laugh.
Ana de Armas, on the other hand, is barely trying. Her petulant delivery of this unrepeatably dull dialogue always sounds exactly like what it is: a bored actress reading lines she doesn’t believe. You don’t believe she’s a spy any more than you buy that he’s a farmer.
That visible strain is evident in every part of Ghosted, from lazy chyrons that read “Outskirts of Washington, D.C.” and “The Khyber Pass, Pakistan” to dialogue that’s meant to sizzle and crackle but just sits there.
Inappropriate needle drops paper over scenes that don’t benefit from the musical cover. What songs like “My Sharona” by The Knack or “Feel It Still“ by Portugal. The Man are doing here I just don’t know, beyond some vague sense that people know them, and what you know must be good.
Even the star cameos will let you down
Hence, a series of cameos from the likes of Anthony Mackie, John Cho, Ryan Reynolds, and Sebastian Stan — meant to be jokes and true flashes of star power — fall even more flat than the jokes about dating and stalking. The film has one note, and it lazily mashes it over and over. This gender-swapped Romancing the Stone runs out of ideas by the second act, then begrudgingly carries on long after its death.
The box office supremacy of Marvel m0vies has unintended side effects. Now even movies meant as big-budget competition to their CGI tedium (the equally pathetic likes of Free Guy, Bullet Train, The Gray Man and Cherry, also an Apple TV+ original) are now just listless imitations of the Marvel house style.
Smug, monotonous and colorless, movies such as Ghosted feel like tax write-offs that insist upon their own existence, even as they dither in a haze for 120 long minutes. As if murdering American film culture in cold blood wasn’t enough, here’s a joyless victory lap from Evans, like a dictator riding through villages he destroyed in a Rolls Royce after winning a rigged election.
Watch Ghosted on Apple TV+
Ghosted premiered today on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper and But God Made Him A Poet: Watching John Ford in the 21st Century, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.