‘Ghosted’ Review: At Least It’s Shorter Than ‘The Gray Man’

Chris Evans and Ana de Armas star in yet another insultingly bland straight-to-streaming action movie, this time for Apple.
Chris Evans and Ana de Armas in Ghosted

Every film era is at least partially defined by the kind of movies that couldn’t have been made at any other time. That’s why — despite boasting an endless smörgåsbord of masterpieces from around the globe — the cinema of the 1970s also continues to remain synonymous with scuzzy vigilante stories about rogue cops fighting to regain some measure of control over an increasingly chaotic world. That’s why the spate of quasi-Shakespearean high school movies that closed out the ’90s became such turbo-charged nostalgia fuel after Columbine and 9/11 combined to shutter the entire sub-genre.

And that’s also why glossy pig slop like Apple TV+’s “Ghosted” will prove more instructive to the history of the streaming era than standouts like “Roma,” “The Lost Daughter,” or “The Power of the Dog.” Consider that a lucky break for a paint-by-numbers action movie that feels like it’s already been half-forgotten by the time it starts playing on your TV.

Lighter on its feet and less agonizing than last summer’s “The Gray Man” (despite sharing two key cast members with the Russo brothers’ $200 million spy-v.-spy slog), “Ghosted” nevertheless manages to feel like a model casualty of the recent content wars. Directed by Dexter Fletcher with all the style and fun that he brought to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” this gender-swapped riff on “The Spy Who Dumped Me” was shot like a car commercial, lazily borrows from an obvious litany of actual Hollywood blockbusters, and constantly betrays the fact that it was made without any real financial interest in actually being good.

If anything, “Ghosted” is just happy to evoke the concept of entertainment in the hopes that some pretty faces and a familiar arrangement of flashing lights might be enough to convince the stock market that Apple is investing its money rather than just pissing it into the wind. If we’re lucky, however, “Ghosted” might also represent the final whimper before a mutual retreat.

With Apple and Amazon both pledging to invest upwards of a billion dollars into big-budget theatrical releases that will presumably be made to a higher standard, there’s reason to hope that “Ghosted” will be the last time a Netflix competitor spends a fortune on an instantly disposable straight-to-streaming action movie that wastes a fun group of actors on some bad Atlanta green screen and a script that feels like it was written by ChatGPT (alas, we’re getting an “Extraction 2” no matter what). Maybe the studios could afford to pay writers a living wage if they didn’t give the writers of “Deadpool” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” several million dollars for something that an AI could pump out for the price of a free prompt.

In this case, that prompt might be something like: “Give me an aggressively basic action-comedy intended for Apple TV+ subscribers who feel like the jokes in ‘Ted Lasso’ are a little too edgy.” Ana de Armas — who would be an exceedingly capable action star if not for her fetishistic attraction to cursed projects — plays Sadie, a CIA super-spy whose grief over a colleague’s recent death has only reinforced her disinterest in having any emotional investments. She aspires to be like a cactus who can thrive with only a bare minimum of affection, but the fact that she buys a begonia (!!) from Chris Evans at a D.C. farmer’s market suggests that Sadie might need some more love than she lets on.

An ultra-charismatic actor who wears his hunky feckless nothing of a character like a straitjacket, Evans plays agriculture nerd Cole Riggan. He’s comically hot and muscular, but he’s also a nerd who loves history (ew) and has a mild case of asthma so this movie paints him as a giant loser who lives in his parents’ guest house and lacks the balls to do anything with his life. It takes every ounce of courage that Cole has to ask Sadie on a date, but he soon gets a taste for sticking his neck out.

When Sadie doesn’t return any of his incessant post-date texts, Cole’s younger sister — a character who only exists to explain the concept of being ghosted, when it would have been so much easier to simply name this movie something else — insists that she’s just not that into him. But Cole is high on his whole new bravery kick, so he decides to fly to London and use GPS to surprise Sadie with a second date.

Alas, the real surprise is on him: Sadie isn’t the innocuous art geek she appeared to be, and Cole finds himself being targeted by a ruthless French arms dealer (Adrien Brody, why not) who thinks he stole a priceless bio-weapon McGuffin thingy. Sadie’s less interested in saving Cole than she is in saving the world, but there’s enough overlap there for her priorities to grow a little more confused with every ho-hum setpiece.


The paint-by-numbers action-comedy that “Ghosted” unpacks from that premise asks so little of its audience that Sadie should probably date it. This movie has no interest in anything more than a casual relationship with its audience, as it reliably stifles a joke or kills the mood the moment it suspects that you might be about to catch feelings.

Is your curiosity piqued by the prospect of Tim Blake Nelson playing a demented Russian torturer who’s obsessed with exotic bugs? Well, don’t get too attached. Are you surprised that this chase scene along Pakistan’s Khyber Pass — or at least along an uncharacteristically convincing recreation of it — is fun and frantic and detailed in a way that might get your hopes up for the film’s more action-driven second hour? Not so fast, here’s 10 minutes of clumsy-ass first-draft banter followed by an aerial escape scene that delivers less excitement than an Instagram Reel (the algorithm has mistakenly concluded that I’m an extreme sports junkie, but I’m just happy that someone thinks I’m cool). Does the movie stumble onto a cameo-driven running joke that seems like it’s building toward an absolutely hilarious payoff? Yep, but don’t worry, it pops the balloon on that so hard that its wasted comic potential ends up seeming like a happy accident.

The movie’s more deliberate choices prove telling. Unironically soundtracking low-intensity, no-imagination fight scenes to songs like “Uptown Funk” and “Lust for Life” betrays a desperate attempt to trigger a Pavlovian response of fun in a film that’s abandoned any hope of producing its own (a semi-decent gag involving a certain Beatles song feels a little less sweaty by comparison). A climactic shootout inside the rotating dining room of Atlanta’s Polaris restaurant throws a neat mechanic into the mix, but Fletcher fails to do anything clever with the location.

If anything, the restaurant serves as a fitting metaphor for an industry that’s furiously spinning in place, and for a film that’s relying on centrifugal force to keep its audience glued to their seats (in lieu of laughter, thrills, or emotional investment). Alas, movies aren’t like cactuses. Like Sadie, they can’t survive on so little attention. And like Sadie, I suspect that the people behind this business model have always known that deep down, and can’t wait for the chance to lose its number.

Grade: C-

“Ghosted” will be available to stream on Apple TV+ starting on Friday, April 21.

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