Released 22nd December
Seen 23rd December
Directed by David Ayer
Written by Max Landis
Produced by Clubhouse Pictures, Overbrook Entertainment, Netflix
Starring Will Smith & Joel Edgerton
I wanted to like this movie. I really wanted to like this movie. Hell, I wanted to love this movie, I wanted to marry it and make a home for it in the village where we could raise small children and have two pets because the concept of this movie is so insanely awesome. A buddy cop movie set in a world where magic exists where we follow a pair of cops, one of whom is a freaking Orc. The idea behind this movie is incredible and it stars Will Smith and it has a cool style and god I wanted to love this movie so much… and then I watched it and disappointment set in really damn quickly.
The entire story follows Officer Ward (Played by Will Smith) and Officer Jakoby (Played by Joel Edgerton) who respond to a call at a house that holds an extremist cell. Turns out, there’s also a magic wand in that house and everyone wants it. Everyone in the film basically wants to kill our two leads in order to get to the magic wand which is a good foundation for a story, easy to follow for the most part (We’ll come back to this in a moment). They also litter the movie with the bones of a discussion of racism using Orcs as a stand-in for a race of people who are constantly thought to be violent because of stories from the past… but they do nothing with that. They just go “Hey, look, this exists” but don’t seem to explore what that means or how it impacts the character beyond other orcs not accepting him, which barely impacts his story and could’ve been entirely cut with nothing of value lost. Heck, even just having the racism of the other cops being a problem might be something but it’s nothing he overcomes, nothing he has to deal with. He’s never even in a scene with another cop where it actually comes up, he seems to think that Wards mocking insults to him are just friendly banter and is seemingly immune to what’s hurled his way.
The acting in this film is really good, props in particular to Joel Edgerton who just owns the film as Jakoby and fills him with a genuine kindness that I can absolutely get behind. Under god knows how much makeup he actually creates a pretty great performance and stands out from the other Orcs. Will Smith is, as usual, charming as hell. I’m pretty confident that the man could read the phone book and make it compelling just with his charisma. He sells his lines pretty well, he get’s through the movie but he never rises above “Average Will Smith Movie Acting” which is still good, but we all know he can be better. Also, he and about four other major characters have bad pornstaches in this movie, who made that decision and why because it’s just weird.
Visually, this film is really something. The cinematography is really wonderfully done, the effects work and the style choices for the designs are incredible. I could just stare at these shots for days and be a very happy man, especially one image in particular that involves an elf and a wall. Not to spoil it, it’s my favourite image in the film and whoever designed that deserves all the praise. I could gleefully watch this movie again just for the cinematography alone, there are very few shots that seemed like they were there gratuitously with the exception of one slow-motion shot with just made me laugh and felt like it was there to show off that they could do slow motion shots while the camera was moving… maybe don’t do that on a Netflix movie where people will see a slow shot and go “Oh shit, did my internet get slowed down already?” #NetNeutrality
Where this film falls is the dialogue and the construction of the story. I’m sorry but if your script involves the exchange “You need physical love” “I’m straight”, then you can just piss off because that’s the lamest attempt at a joke I’ve heard in a long time and it doesn’t even make sense in context. Beyond the gay panic involved in that piece of dialogue, it just doesn’t work from a foundational joke level. Even if you had the first character say something to the effect of “You need physical love, I could help with that”, at least then the second line makes sense. This problem pops up throughout the movie, characters say lines that they think are jokes but don’t really seem to work in context and are only getting a laugh because Will Smith is amazing at line delivery, he could sell any joke he set his mind too even if the joke isn’t actually funny. They also have a major problem with how to tell this simple story. They try to set up a big shock twist involving the cops at the half-hour mark, but it’s entirely foreseeable within about two minutes of meeting them (Also, the shot where this twist happened would be cooler with four bullets instead of a whole clip… just saying). The middle of the film is so haphazard that I had to rewind several times to catch up and while everything looked nice, nothing truly interesting was happening. Then there’s a moment at the end which instantly destroys all potential for tension because it creates a “Get out of jail free” card everyone seems to forget about moments later, and also just, in general, didn’t need to be a part of the movie because it just creates a plothole that never gets filled. It was so major and so instantly forgotten that I literally sat there screaming “We just witnessed a miracle, and I want you to fucking acknowledge it!” and they never do.
A visually impressive film with some good performances, but weighed down by a script littered with bad dialogue and major story issues that add nothing except exasperation to the viewing experience. A very nice video, it’s such a shame about the song.