Ghosted is now streaming on Apple TV+
Do you miss the lovesick nonsense of action rom-coms like This Means War or The Bounty Hunter? Look no further than director Dexter Fletcher's Ghosted, (named after the modern dating phenomenon of going radio silent rather than actually breaking off a relationship) which becomes a secret agent meet-cute. It's never more than lovey-dovey, bullet-flinging escapism from start to finish, hinged on beautiful leads whose chemistry is squeezed dry like weeks-old toothpaste tubes, but also outwardly enjoys tinkering with overused rom-com cliches even as bodies pile sky high. Expect a ridiculously farfetched tale about finding love under the government’s nose (we're supposed to believe anyone would dump Chris Evans, under any circumstances?) that enjoys a good cameo surprise, and maybe you'll escape with a grin.
Evans plays innocent, starry-eyed farm boy Cole Turner, smitten after a magical date with usually closed-off art curator Sadie Rhodes (Ana de Armas). Evans giddily bucks historical rom-com trends where men are painted as the emotionally unavailable ones while it's up to women to thaw their frozen hearts, as Cole is the over-texter who flies to London on a whim to surprise Sadie after her lack of reciprocation causes him anxiety. Screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (known for the Deadpool and Zombieland movies) team with co-writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers (of Tom Holland's Spider-Man series) to seek newer representations of rom-com excitement, yet never get much further than that basic gender-role flip.
Ghosted boasts all the country-hopping, vehicle chase sequences, and double-crossing we’d expect from any James Bond or Jason Bourne movie, though it’s toned down a few notches. The focus is always on Sadie and Cole feeding the flames of newfound love, which leaves shadow operation details and what should be magnificent action sequences noticeably underserved. Sadie at least makes her tactical presence known early as she comically reveals her special agent status to a dumbstruck Cole, who almost dies horribly just for trying something vulnerably romantic (verging on stalker-creepy). For her part, de Armas is locked, and loaded for every scene, whether she's swiftly eliminating mercenaries or verbally sparring with Evans as they discuss common relationship hurdles – a cutesy game that inches dangerously close to growing old.
For her part, de Armas is locked and loaded for every scene.
Back and forth their banter passes, as dialogue relates hostage scenarios or gunfights to dating pitfalls like opening ourselves to partnerships or being terrified of losing someone due to personal actions. Evans and de Armas are comfortable working through the spectacularly ludicrous scenario as bounty hunters and gang bosses threaten to cut their violent second date short, especially when romantic energy swells during couples choreography as henchmen attack the duo in swarms. It's just never expressively emphatic, since the writers do a lot of "telling, not showing" as characters frustratingly spell out how in love Cole and Sadie are like they expect we need convincing. (We do.)
Where Ghosted struggles is stringing along Cole's civilian participation in an international espionage operation for almost two hours. Fletcher is a dependable director who navigates heartfelt conversations as cleanly as shoot-outs in twirling, tower-top restaurants, but the premise can feel like it's going through the motions during scenes of "will they, won't they" drama – as if there's any question about if we’re in for a happy ending.
Storytelling can feel stretched beyond limits, like a captured spy pulled lengthwise on a torture rack.
For as lighthearted as it can be as Cole enters the fighting pose of a schoolboy who's never taken a punch and proudly proclaims, "I'm the boyfriend," storytelling can feel stretched beyond limits, like a captured spy pulled lengthwise on a torture rack. There's nothing exceedingly unfortunate about supporting performances that include a villainous Adrien Brody as a scumbag arms dealer or Amy Sedaris as Cole's kooky mother, or outright disappointing about the B-to-C-level fight sequences that do their job without wowing. Ghosted just sags in scattered moments that miss a top-tier romantic comedy's spark. We know where everything's going, so get there already.
That said, the unmentionable gifts presented at random times throughout that albeit overlong duration are worth a few smirks. It’s hard not to chuckle as Evans interacts with familiar actors from his past – perhaps even laugh when they call back to shared lines – which adds to the pleasantness of Ghosted. Fletcher never plays the conceptually absurd yet recognizably sweet mashup of love and gunsmoke as anything but the cheesiest of hunger-erasing main courses.
If you’re in the mood for Chris Evans and Ana de Armas doing a True Lies-style riff while their famous friends pop in for gag appearances that’ll make you say “I understood that reference!,” Ghosted is a mixed but viable option. Its espionage story is too drawn out, action interludes don’t set the screen ablaze, nor does the romance get steamy enough to turn heads, but Evans and de Armas squeak by as an unlikely team who fight through a likely rom-com blueprint. Without the script spelling out letter-by-letter how we should feel about the reversed gender roles instead of letting authentic elation or excitement take hold, Ghosted would be more than a rogue mission that might stay under the radar. As is, there’s enough to keep watching – but wanting more is not a crime.