Thursday, December 28, 2017

Streaming tip--Netflix's Ayer/Landis BRIGHT: It's more fun than most critics have suggested

Yes, you have to be willing to accept a tale of Los Angeles cops -- good ones and bad ones -- that also involves fairies, elves and orcs (the latter will be lost on older audiences unfamiliar with those Lord of the Rings movies), but once you do, BRIGHT, the latest Netflix-released movie to find its way onto the streaming miasma, is actually a lot of fast-moving-if-silly fun that simultaneously offers its own ever-timely look at and lesson on racism and prejudice. For some nonsensical reason, our critical establishment, who just loved Wonder Woman, has seen fit to pillory David Ayer, first for giving us the more-fun-than-you've-heard Suicide Squad movie and now this fantasy follow-up that traffics equally in make-believe and mayhem.

As directed by Ayer (shown at right) and written by Max Landis, Bright makes good use of both the director's past abilities regarding cop movies (Training Day and Dark Blue, which he wrote, and the fine End of Watch, which he wrote and as directed) and his newer-found ability to offer up comic book stuff in the style that it deserves: not taking it at all seriously while making it move and amuse. One can only laugh in utter derision at critics who accused Ayer of making Suicide Club unbelievable -- as though any of these goddamned super-hero/stupid-hero movie were even remotely believable? Well, "great minds" do think alike.

Meanwhile, Bright posits one of those alternate-universe L.A.s in which elves have taken over as the elite, mere humans are relegated to underling status, fairies simply fly around and occasionally get swatted, and orcs are clearly at the bottom of the food chain: think Blacks.

There is one scene in the movie in which cops descend and beat practically to death an orc that will put you immediately in mind of Rodney King. Will Smith and Joel Edgerton (above and further above, left and right, respectively) play the usual unlikely cop partners (with Edgerton as the first orc ever allowed on the L.A. police force). Smith seems more relaxed and willing to let his easy charm shine brighter than in recent films, while Edgerton (of Animal Kingdom and Loving, even under very heavy make-up and/or CGI, manages to grab us and move us, as ever.

The minimal plot has to do with a, yes, magic wand (called exactly that), the getting of which seems awfully important to various elves, cops, gang members and everyone else on view. Our two cops manage to meet and protect a lone woman elf named Tikka (Lucy Fry, above) who seems to have changed sides from bad girl to good, and now needs to keep that wand under her wing.

The leading naughty elf is played by Noomi Rapace, above, a talented actress with a great face who is wasted here. Much of her role must have ended up on what we used to call the cutting room floor, or she was simply given too little to do in the first place. In the very large supporting cast are actors like Ike Barinholtz and Margaret Cho (as dirty cops) and Edgar Ramírez (below) as a sexy federal-agent elf.

All told, this one's a time-waster, but it is a lot of fun and not at all difficult to sit through -- if you've a mind to and are in mood for fantasy and action.  From Netflix, Bright, running just under two full hours, began streaming this past Friday, December 22.

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