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    Friday, June 09, 2023

    Movie review: 'Ghosted' doesn't get enough from Ana de Armas, who's paired with Chris Evans in appealing but underachieving action rom-com

    Promising premise? Check.

    A couple of bona fide movie stars? Check.

    Dependable director? Check.

    "Ghosted" — a Skydance Media production going straight to Apple TV+ this week — checks the important boxes. Unfortunately, having the necessary ingredients does not ensure movie magic, as this spy-action-romantic-comedy mashup proves.

    Helmed by Dexter Fletcher ("Eddie the Eagle," "Rocketman"), "Ghosted" pairs Ana de Armas as a highly skilled-and-deadly CIA agent with Chris Evans — Captain America himself — as a clingy, needy fellow who gets pulled into her dangerous world after she fails to respond to a string of text messages from him following one night together.

    It sounds fun, right? And, to be fair, "Ghosted" is — it just isn't as fun, as consistently entertaining, as it should be given all it has going for it.

    It starts out well enough, de Armas' Sadie Rhodes shaken by the death of a colleague, a woman much like her — same age, same job, similarly nice but vaguely inhabited house, etc.

    When Sadie shows up at a farmers market to buy a plant to bring even a little life to said sad house, she encounters Evans' Cole Turner, who works on his parents' farm and at this moment is covering a neighboring stand chock full of plants for sale. After learning how infrequently Sadie would be home to care for a plant and some sexually charged bickering, he refused to sell her anything but a cactus.

    When it's pointed out to Cole that he and Sadie were actually flirting, he runs out to find her in her car and asks her out. A magical, extended date follows.

    Cut to him not all that long afterward talking with his mother (Amy Sedaris), father (Tate Donovan) and sister, Mattie (Lizze Broadway), telling them that while he knows it sounds crazy, Sadie may be the one. Mattie, knowing her brother, demands to know how many times he's texted Sadie since leaving her.

    Once, he says, before admitting, "Three. And some light emoji stuff, but that doesn't count."

    "Emoji stuff counts!" exclaims Mattie, who is further horrified to find Cole took a selfie with a sleeping Sadie.

    Instead of heeding warnings from his sister that he's already scared off Sadie, Cole soon listens to his parents, who suggest a grand romantic gesture: surprising her in London. (He knows she's in England from the tracker on the inhaler he left in her bag.) He easily sells himself on the idea that she doesn't have an international phone plan DESPITE her cover story that she's a world-traveling art curator.

    Come on, guy.

    In London and following the signal, Cole is snatched up by some goons and, when he awakens in Pakistan, he is about to be tortured by a man named Borislov (Tim Black Nelson) who believes him to be a deadly operative known as "the Taxman." Cole, as you can imagine, is highly confused and pleads for his life — until he is rescued by Sadie, appropriately offended anyone would think HE is the Taxman when it is, of course, she.

    The adventure that follows — starting with a relatively exciting chase sequence that begins after a furious-at-Cole Sadie commandeers a bus for her and her dude in distress and culminating in the two having to work together to secure a powerful biological weapon — is generally clunky.

    Yes, there are more action sequences, but "Ghosted" depends mostly on the comedic moments generated by Evans and de Armas. While he's no gift to comedy, Evans is more up to this task than she, the Academy Award-nominated "Blonde" star looking more comfortable firing a machine gun than delivering a zinger.

    You'd also expect a bit more chemistry from the good-looking pair given that they've already shared the screen in two movies, 2019's "Knives Out" and last year's "The Gray Man." (To be fair, though, it's not as if they had myriad scenes together in either.)

    Not surprisingly, Fletcher — whose resume also includes finishing 2018's "Bohemian Rhapsody" for the fired Bryan Singer — infuses "Ghosted" with a number of catchy tunes, making us wait for an obvious and regularly teased famous song.

    Nothing he does, though — not even a handful of clever cameos tied to his stars or the inclusion of the usually terrific Adrien Brody ("See Them Run") as the movie's main and surprisingly boring villain — is enough to make "Ghosted" the infectious romp it could have been.

    If you're an Apple TV+ subscriber, there's enough here to give it a look on a date night in — just don't expect to want to hit it up again.



    2 stars (out of 4)

    Rated: PG-13 (for sequences of strong violence/action, brief strong language and some sexual content)

    Running time: 1:56

    How to watch: Apple TV+.

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