“Dude, you can’t go through Elf Town!” – Will Smith’s L.A. cop to his partner in “Bright.”
Dude. You can’t go through Elf Town.
By the time Will Smith barks that line with 100 percent urgency and sincerity in the mindboggling mess that is “Bright,” it’s clear we are watching a truly terrible, mountainous pile of genre-blending garbage.
You see, Elf Town is where the Elf People live in the parallel universe of David Ayers’ “Bright,” reportedly the most expensive (some $90 million) Netflix original movie to date.
Elves — who pretty much look like humans, save for the pointy ears — are the privileged class in this version of modern-day Los Angeles, which doesn’t quite have a post-apocalyptic look but is awfully brown and gray and hazy and bleak. The elves have the money and the power and fancy cars and the big houses and the swagger and swag.
After Smith tells his partner they can’t go through Elf Town, he adds, “What, are you going to get yourself some designer shoes? Ain’t nothing here but rich-ass elves, running the world and shopping.”
And humans? (Yes, Smith’s cop, Daryl Ward, is a human. He’s basically the same cop character Smith has played in a half-dozen films: a little bit of a rogue, tough and street-ready, and basically a good guy.) The humans are doing … OK, I guess. They’ve certainly got it better than the orcs, and what’s an orc, you say?So glad you asked.
The orcs are the misfits, the outsiders, the oppressed, the unwanted. They walk and talk and move (and presumably go the bathroom, etc.) in the same manner as humans, but they’ve got fangs among their lower teeth, yellowish eyes, and they’re fairly grotesque-looking creatures.
Your typical orc looks like Nosferatu if he’d been left out in the sun for a few minutes.
Officer Ward has been paired up with Officer Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton, unrecognizable under the makeup) as part of the Orc Diversity Program, I kid you not. In fact, Jakoby is the first orc cop in the nation, and he’s caught between two worlds, because the orcs think he’s a traitor and the human cops don’t trust this dirty stinkin’ orc.
(If you think “Bright” is filled with transparent parallels to real-world racism and class differences: bingo.)
“I need to know if you’re a cop first, or an orc first!” Ward barks to Jakoby just before they get involved in a shootout.
There are LOTS of shootouts in “Bright.” Sometimes the shootouts spring somewhat naturally from the events at hand; sometimes it just seems like there’s a shootout for the sake of filling the screen with gunplay and bodies falling and the shattering of glass. (There is much shattering of glass.)
Ward and Jakoby stumble upon a big case, and I’m not talking about chasing down a local crime lord. This is a BIG CASE, involving some truly bad hombres who are trying to gain control of three magic wands, because that will give them the power to raise the Dark Lord from the dead — and the Dark Lord reportedly plans to “kill billions of people and enslave the rest,” as one character helpfully explains.
In fact, the case is so big, the obligatory “feds” arrive on the scene. But in the world of “Bright,” the feds are actually officially called the Magic Task Force.
For real. They’re elves (because remember, the elves have all the power?), and they proudly refer to themselves as THE MAGIC TASK FORCE.
“Bright” is basically a tired buddy-cop movie dressed up in bizarre trappings, as if director Ayer (who has written some acclaimed films, including “Training Day” and “End of Watch”) and screenwriter Max Landis cherry-picked bits of “Alien Nation,” “Blade Runner,” “The Fifth Element” and even a slice or two of Hobbit life. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s not nearly as self-deprecating and funny as it needed to be.
It’s an interesting cast. Smith is a still a big movie star and he has his moments of charm and intensity. Edgerton gives Jakoby more humanity than most of the humans in the story. Noomi Rapace, bearing an almost startling resemblance to Ivanka Trump (I’m sure that’s coincidence), is a force as the evil Leilah, who will do anything to get a wand and bring back the Dark Lord, with whom she is in love. Too bad they’re all trapped in a giant sticky pile of silliness.
Just remember: you can’t go through Elf Town!
Netflix presents a film directed by David Ayer and written by Max Landis. No MPAA rating. Running time: 117 minutes. Now showing on Netflix.