It was the best of dates, it was the worst of dates. Such is the case in “Ghosted,” a preposterous but entertaining action-comedy in which a risk-averse farmer (though not your father’s farmer) falls for a captivating art curator, only to discover — the really, really hard way — that she’s actually a bone-cracking, sharpshooting, globe-trotting CIA agent. Oh, and that his life is in mortal danger. Ah, romance!
Chris Evans, at his limber, charismatic best, plays lovelorn Cole Turner (nickname “Cole Slaw.” Groan.) He lives and works with his parents (Tate Donovan, Amy Sedaris) and needling kid sister (Lizze Broadway) on the family farm and sells its products at a Washington, D.C., farmers market. It’s there he meets Sadie Rhodes (Ana de Armas), an elusive shopper who catches his eye. After a bit of sexy clashing — and a few too many plant metaphors — they go out for coffee, hit a bunch of D.C. hot spots and are together until the next morning.
Cole thinks she’s “the one” but, when she doesn’t return his flurry of texts, the smitten guy wonders if she’s ghosted him after one marathon date. When he learns (via an all-too-handy app) that she’s gone to London, he decides to make a grand gesture and flies there to surprise her — only to be mistaken for a legendary operative called “The Taxman.” (Thanks to the film’s clearly ample music budget, the Beatles song will be ringing in your ears.) Cole’s knocked out by goons, then wakes up in a cave in — wait for it — the Khyber Pass, where he’s being interrogated and tortured for the passcodes to unlock Aztec, a bioweapon of mass destruction that Leveque (Adrien Brody), a coldblooded, Mr. Big-type arms dealer, has a plan to cash in on.
To say that Cole is bewildered, would be an understatement. But it’s nothing compared to his shock when the real “Taxman” shows up, guns a-blazing — and it’s Sadie. She saves Cole’s life but is less than happy to see him, especially with her cover blown.
It’s worth noting, even at this early stage of the story, that the somewhat hapless and gentle Cole wouldn’t have lasted five minutes amid the initial mayhem. But then there wouldn’t be a movie — or at least this movie — if logic was a priority, so it’s probably best to put your brain on idle and settle into the silliness.
A whirlwind of wild action, quite competently staged and rendered by director Dexter Fletcher (“Rocketman”), follows as Cole and Sadie death-defyingly battle the baddies, including a revolving door of bounty hunters (cue the celebrity cameos), Leveque’s sleek henchman, Wagner (Mike Moh) and, later, a Mr. Even-Bigger-Than-Leveque evildoer named Utami (Stephen Park), all to keep Aztec out of the wrong hands and, y’know, save the planet.
The mismatched pair’s nutso mission takes them from Pakistan and Afghanistan to an island in the Arabian Sea and then back to our nation’s capital (the film was effectively shot in Atlanta, New Mexico, London and D.C.) as they, of course, survive such massive ordeals as a crazy chase through a packed outdoor bazaar, a high-velocity race in an old jungle bus down a mountain switchback, and the movie’s uniquely impressive pièce de résistance: a massive, climactic mêlée atop a sky-high revolving restaurant. Kudos to the picture’s creative and technical team for these eye-popping sequences.
But since this is, at heart, a rom-com — albeit an extremely noisy, frantic and contrived one — the script, by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Chris McKenna andErik Sommers (story by Reese and Wernick), works hard to keep Cole and Sadie bickering, bantering and futilely attempting to resist each other at every treacherous turn. (How folks in films like this manage to exchange quips and barbs amid raging gunfire and wall-flinging fisticuffs remains a dubious wonder.)
Evans (a producer here) and de Armas (an executive producer), who’ve previously appeared together in “Knives Out” and “The Gray Man,” prove a game and appealing duo. They take the film’s ridiculousness just seriously enough to keep barreling through while navigating the more puckish bits with the requisite charm and buoyancy.
Still, the whole enterprise is as far-fetched as they come as it amusingly plies the belief that love can conquer all — even world domination. You could do worse.
Rated: PG-13, for sequences of strong violence/action, brief strong language and some sexual content
Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Playing: Available April 21 on Apple TV+