Ghosted (2023) Movie Review: There are times when you select a movie to stream in the background while you move around and do your household chores. It’s not a knock on the film’s quality; it’s more like an endemic representation of the current streaming era. “Ghosted” joins the illustrious lines of streaming originals like “The Grey Man”, “Red Notice,” and “Killers” as so boilerplate and filled with so much humor and snark representative of Marvel films that even groaning in frustration would exacerbate the seeming exhaustion your body undergoes through just watching the movie. So this movie just runs in the background.
At the same time, you do your chores, look at the screen once or twice to see two pretty people fighting off a bunch of goons to protect a case with a pass-code, go back to doing your chores again, and look back after a good 40 minutes to see the final climax fight where our couple is fighting against the main bad guy in a restaurant situated on a revolving funnel structure over a tower. It would confuse you briefly until you saw the MacGuffin and your neurons made the necessary connections. After all, this isn’t rocket science.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t have to be rocket science. But when the studio and Hollywood’s cynicism as a whole is so blatantly apparent that it is using all of the plot tropes, hiring the most famous mainstream actors currently working today, while simultaneously bringing in more actors of reputable franchises as cameos in hilariously unfunny-designed action gags, you realize that the creation of these forms of media with the usual razzle-dazzle is just a way to boost the library of the streaming service and bring in new subscribers. It wouldn’t have hurt if this had been the usual suspects (“Netflix”), but Apple TV+ dipping its toe into crafting shiny, mediocre dunderheads is slightly disappointing.
More than the plot, what struck me at times is the movie’s propensity to sometimes let scenes run on too long to mine comedy bordering on cringe or uncomfortable, like an SNL sketch. Observe the meet-cute between our protagonists Cole (Chris Evans) and Sadie (Ana De Armas) where they get into a fight over the handling of a house plant, which devolves into a petty and brainless fight with Sadie storming off after buying his plant. The clerk, whose shop Cole had been overseeing, comes over and gushes about how their argument was dripping with sexual tension and that they should have gotten a room.
This is where I immediately halt, primarily because I don’t appreciate a movie’s repeated efforts to convince me that these two characters should be together when they don’t have any chemistry whatsoever. Ana De Armas (in her horrible wig) and Chris Evans are two gorgeous people who feel like mannequins trying to communicate with each other, with no sense of discernible sparks between them. And when your movie is based entirely on the central premise of this “love story” between a neurotic, needy, borderline stalker individual and this emotionally unavailable closed-off character, you need more of a compelling arc of these individuals to make any viewer care barely.
I appreciated director Dexter Fletcher trying his hardest to bring any sort of visual flavor to the whole proceedings. However, this doesn’t feel like a director adept at shooting action sequences or sequences involving heavy VFX. Thankfully, the VFX in this is a tad bit better than the one used in The Grey Man. But all of these contribute to an unsurprising lack of stakes in these entire proceedings. Evans is a salt-of-the-earth boy who is a fish out of water in this world of high espionage and spycraft.
His subversive approach towards an alpha male isn’t successful, which is finally forgotten by the time the climax fight occurs and he is seen brandishing a shotgun and killing people with efficiency. De Armas is very good during those action sequences, buoyed by some decent action choreography. At the same time, her moments during the emotional outbursts or any sort of intimacy between her and Evans’ character are ineffective because her conveyance is too theatrical and less believable.
Movies dealing with couples involved in espionage and spy hijinks are nothing new, if we consider “True Lies”, Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and even, to a degree “Knight and Day”. The one common thread between all three of these movies is the almost blistering chemistry between the protagonists, which contributed positively to the propulsiveness of the plot and even some of the action sequences by imbibing it with stakes. Because Ghosted’s primary pillar already has the biggest crack (the central romance), this house crumbles very quickly. It could be taken as a fun watch on a rainy afternoon. But then again, it also shows the quandary of the streaming landscape caused by a sheer lack of quality control.