1 of 5 | Chris Evans and Ana de Armas star in "Ghosted." Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
LOS ANGELES, April 21 (UPI) -- Ghosted, on Apple TV+ Friday, squanders a fun premise and appealing cast with lazy execution and cringe-worthy dialogue.
Cole (Chris Evans) has just been dumped when he meets Sadie (Ana de Armas) shopping at the Farmer's Market, at which he has a stand. Though they argue at first, Cole wins Sadie over with an apology and they share a romantic day together that ends in bed.
Then Cole texts too much and never hears back, so he decides to surprise Sadie when she's in London. As soon as he arrives, Cole is kidnapped and Sadie rescues him, revealing she actually is a CIA agent.
Cole becomes the damsel in distress on Sadie's mission in a gender-flipped riff on action films like The Bourne Identity or Knight and Day. Casting Captain America actor Evans in the role is a fun way to cast him against type.
Unfortunately, Ghosted gets off to a rough start before it even establishes the plot. Cole's fellow Farmer's Market sellers rib him for his neediness in the relationship.
Neither their comments nor his retorts are clever or funny. Cole even resorts to bald jokes with one male colleague.
Cole gets aggressive with Sadie when he sells her a plant, judging her for being away from home too much to care for a living thing. Sadie even calls the plants needy in a metaphor so on the nose that even a co-dependent would groan.
Romantic comedies frequently begin with a couple who hate each other, but it's especially grating when a female proprietor observes the flirtation beneath their argument. It's not a commentary on the love-hate trope just because a character says it.
Cole's parents (Amy Sedaris and Tate Donovan) encourage his neediness, but the film does at least portray it as a problem. Cole waiting by the phone is more pathetic than endearing, and his sister (Lizze Broadway) confirms that showing up unannounced in London is a bad idea.
Cole finds out where Sadie is because he left his inhaler with her. The inhaler has a tracker for when it gets lost, which shows more thought went into the macguffin than making the characters well-rounded.
Once Sadie shows up to rescue Cole, Ghosted has solid, coherent, if somewhat low-energy action scenes. Every time the film focuses on how overwhelmed Cole is by car chases or gunfire, it slows down the action. It's not really worth losing momentum for that joke.
Still, Ghosted stages some legitimate vehicle stunts, intercut with actors in front of a green screen. It's far more glaring than the Fast and the Furious movies that use the same technique.
The two screenwriting teams of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers have some clever ideas for cool action scenes. A revolving array of assassins played by celebrities in cameos and the action climax in a rotating restaurant stand out.
Unfortunately director Dexter Fletcher chose to score most of the action with pre-existing music. When "My Sharona," "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" or "Uptown Funk" play, they feel like lazy needle drops.
The Matrix used the song "Spybreak" by Propellerheads during one of its action scenes, not every single one of them. The romantic scenes don't fare any better as "Feel It Still" by Portugal 6 plays during a romantic montage.
Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino are experts at curating movie soundtracks with pre-existing music that is relevant to the film. Just dropping tracks that were popular at some point does not give Ghosted a personality.
In between action scenes, Cole and Sadie continue to argue. Cole meets ex-boyfriends Sadie met on previous missions and it's not funny hearing an ex-boyfriend talk about sex with Sadie.
Ghosted is especially frustrating because it's so close to working. Instead, each scene feels as desperate to connect as Cole is to get a date.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.