‘Ghosted’: 50% Rom-Com, 50% Action Blockbuster, 100% Forgettable

A gender-flipped Bond-style adventure with a hapless male love interest and a hypercompetent female spy is a fine idea. But Ghosted’s elevator pitch is all it has going for it.

Chris Evans and Ana de Armas in ‘Ghosted.’ Apple TV+

She’s a recent Academy Award nominee with a penchant for action movies. He’s a beloved superhero looking to play against type. What could go wrong? A lot, as it turns out. Ghosted, the new feature film on Apple TV+ from Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, and director Dexter Fletcher, is 50% romantic comedy, 50% action blockbuster, and 100% forgettable.

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GHOSTED (1/4 stars)
Directed by: Dexter Fletcher
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Starring: Chris Evans, Ana de Armas
Running time: 105 mins.

Evans plays Cole, a farmer from Virginia who dreams of falling in love and writing a book about the history of agriculture. After sabotaging another relationship with his neediness, Cole has a whirlwind encounter with Sadie (de Armas), a globe-trotting art curator. But when Sadie doesn’t respond to his dozen text messages soliciting a second date, Cole decides to follow her to London as an ill-advised grand romantic gesture. When he arrives, however, he is quickly captured by a group of terrorists who believe that he is the elite CIA assassin “The Taxman.” Of course, he isn’t the Taxman, Sadie is, and she’s forced to drag him across the globe and rescue him from a series of escalating threats while trying to prevent the sale of a biological weapon. It’s a fine enough premise, centering a Bond-style spy adventure around the hapless love interest instead of the hypercompetent assassin, but Ghosted’s elevator pitch is all it has going for it. Its comedy would have been old hat in the mid-’90s, and apart from a few clever action beats, there’s very little tension or excitement to speak of. Even the cast, from the leads down to terrific comic actors like Adrian Brody, Tim Blake Nelson, and Amy Sedaris in supporting roles, feel like they’re operating at half-strength.

To begin with, for a pair of very hot people, Evans and de Armas don’t project a tremendous amount of chemistry. This isn’t a knock against either actor; sometimes the heat just isn’t there, and this is one of those cases. The film was originally announced with Evans’ Avengers co-star Scarlett Johansson as his counterpart, a much safer bet given the sparks between them in 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but when Johansson departed the project citing scheduling issues, Ana de Armas took over, also becoming an executive producer. After her scene-stealing turn as CIA agent Paloma in No Time to Die there’s every reason to imagine this working. However, despite the vocal insistence of every other character in the film, the bickering between Sadie and Cole never really reads as pent-up sexual tension. Their scenes feel like arguments, not foreplay. I never found myself rooting for these two to end up together, and that’s death for a romantic comedy.

It doesn’t help that the imposing Chris Evans fails to sell himself as a defenseless Everyman. Sure, being a beefy farm boy doesn’t automatically make someone battle-ready, but it’s hard to separate Evans from his portrayal of Captain America, another dreamy-eyed nice guy, but one who happens to be able to fight off a dozen assassins in a moving elevator. Of course, all the chemistry in the world wouldn’t save a film with a script this hackneyed and flavorless, but it might at least have been a little more fun.

Sadly, Ghosted fares no better as an action-adventure film than it does as a romantic comedy. Director Dexter Fletcher seems to be on the fence as to whether Ghosted is an action movie with comic elements or a full-on cartoon. For the most part, however, the fights and chases are neither thrilling nor funny, they’re simply competently choreographed setpieces backed — without exception — to recognizable pop songs, a shortcut to style that leads nowhere. Adding insult to injury is the fact that nearly every scene, whether it be romantic, comedic, or action-packed, is shot with the same bright, even lighting. Ghosted is a film about spies that has no shadows. I cannot fathom the motivation behind this, unless it’s a massive overcorrection against the current Hollywood trend towards gloomy lighting.

As it’s skipping theaters altogether, no one is asking you to buy a ticket to see Ghosted. It has premiered on Apple TV+, and if you’re a subscriber, you’ve already paid for it. The good news is there’s lots of other programs worth watching on that service, given that Apple’s general strategy in the streaming wars is quality over quantity. Since you can’t vote with your dollar, vote with your clicks and watch literally anything else on Apple TV tonight, which in a just world will convince them, and streamers like them, to stop blowing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars on would-be blockbusters that are unworthy of any screen, regardless of its size.

Observer Reviews are regular assessments of new and noteworthy cinema.

‘Ghosted’: 50% Rom-Com, 50% Action Blockbuster, 100% Forgettable