Netflix continues to blaze a trail, this time with a buddy cop movie featuring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton with the added twist that magic is real.
The premise is some sort of mashup between Bad Boys and Alien Nation… but set in Mordor. Ward (Smith) and Jakoby (Edgerton) must contend with the difficulties not only of Jakoby being the first Orc cop in the LAPD, but also that a secret group of renegade Elves are trying to bring The Dark Lord back by uniting three wands… and as you would expect our heroes have stumbled upon one such wand.
To read some of the other reviews out there in Interweb Land, you would believe this to be the biggest flop of the year. Whilst this film does have flaws, I would struggle to shred this movie in the way that I have Prometheus or Suicide Squad. This film runs at nearly 2hrs and at no point was I bored. The pacing was tight and the contrivances were forgivable.
The analogies were perhaps labelled a bit too heavily, and theme of discrimination and racism sometimes came across as heavy-handed. The orcs are the Mexican gangs. The elves are the white banking class. And everybody else muddles along and just about gets by.
Unfortunately, this particular message also detracts from the story. Ward is seen actively trying to bump Jakoby as his partner and were this a white officer trying to sideline his black partner we would rightly call him out. Whilst never boiling over, it is Ward’s inherent racism that stopped me loving this movie. He is a prejudiced and narrow-minded individual and yet we are asked to root for him and want him to win.
I did neither.
Combined with the meagre character arc offered to Jakoby, I never felt passionate about the main characters quest, but kind of went along with the action much in the same way that I did with Temple of Doom and Aliens.
For these faults, there are moments of brilliance. The excessive use of graffiti as a means of world-building blurred the line between show-don’t-tell just enough to satisfy me, without having to reach for the remote to rewind and finish reading a message. The use of interagency conflict was done well, and the repeated comments of police brutality couched in the terms of “Do it LAPD style!” was a chilling reminder that little has changed since the days of Rodney King and the LA Riots.
This is neither a great nor a terrible movie. It has decent production value, and is trying to set up for a spin-off series, but suffers from one main character being fundamentally unlikeable and the other too muted.
If nothing else is on, then give it a go but don’t expect to have your worldview changed.