Credit: Apple TV+
by Chris Mello Featured Film Streaming Scene

Ghosted — Dexter Fletcher

April 21, 2023

Dexter Fletcher’s Ghosted is a high-concept romantic action comedy with movie stars and a decent budget that, were this 2005, would presumably have the potential to be both a hit and a tabloid item, in the vein of something similar to Mr. and Mrs. Smith (minus the whole meta matrimony stuff, of course). Now, these movies still get made despite social media claims to the contrary, but they’re nearly always relegated to streaming and, just as often, complete garbage. Fletcher’s film, then, isn’t really a throwback to the summer movies of the 2000s so much as Apple TV+’s foray into an emergent genre best described as “Netflix drivel.”

Reuniting two of the stars of Netflix and the Russo brothers’ The Gray Man, Ghosted sets up a contentious meet-cute between Cole (Chris Evans) and Sadie (Ana De Armas), quaintly orchestrated in the farmer’s market where Cole sells his family’s wares. The pair spend a whole day together, culminating in a sex scene that reminds why comparing a film to music videos used to be pejorative. But afterward, Sadie vanishes, leaving all of Cole’s many text messages unread. As Cole’s hip younger sister explains — for audiences unacquainted with the modern parlance of the film’s title — she has ghosted him. Her reasons are made clear once Cole stalks her to London and is promptly kidnapped by supervillains: Sadie is an über-competent CIA assassin. She saves her one-night stand from his demise, and Cole is subsequently dragged into a half-baked bit of international espionage.

Theoretically, this isn’t an awful setup. After all, horny men falling into spy hijinks is a Hitchcock staple. Even the undesirability of the two leads shouldn’t be much of a problem: yes, Cole behaves like a needy, desperate creep and Sadie kills dozens of men without a second thought, but a good rom-com can make easy work of overlooking the most tragic character flaws. The magic of the genre is often in how sexual tension and charm overcome the irrationality of a potential relationship and its circumstances. Evidently, the filmmaker and his leads are simply not up to that task. Fletcher directs with a listlessness befitting cinematographer Salvatore Totino’s flat images, composing his shots without creativity or even seemingly any attempt at style. Evans and De Armas, in return, meet the director and the material at that level — these are objectively sexy people who have proven charming in the past, but it’s impossible to find chemistry in their sleepy performances. Evans’ work here, which consists of half-assed charming smiles and tossed-off quips, makes the case that if Marvel hasn’t outright destroyed cinema, it has at least drained the actor of his remaining personality and energy. De Armas, meanwhile, never seems comfortable in her role, even as she plays her third spy character in the past three years. She’s as lackluster with the film’s dialogue as she is with its action scenes, a far, far cry from her movie-stealing performance in No Time to Die. And were it not for the film’s third parties loudly and constantly pointing it out, the sexual tension supposedly bubbling beneath their bickering would go completely unnoticed.

On the other hand, half of the time Ghosted doesn’t even seem interested in the rom or com of the romantic comedy it’s failing to sell, and instead gets too wrapped up in its lame spy thriller MacGuffin hunt. In fact, there’s far more action in the film than there is sex or kissing, and it’s all somehow even less exciting than the romance, as many of these setpieces are just blurs of CGI and stunt doubles set to a series of needle drops indistinguishable from the playlist at a middle school dance. One extended car chase sequence is set to “My Sharona,” while, for some reason, the climactic shootout makes use of the egregious “Uptown Funk.” But the worst offender is a brawl on an airplane set to Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” Interesting, because Pitchfork once reviewed a Jet album with nothing except a video of a chimp pissing in its own mouth. Ghosted inspires roughly the same enthusiasm.

You can currently stream Ghosted on Apple TV+.

Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 16.