Tag Archives: David Ayer

Bright (2017) Movie Review by Chauncey Telese

BRIGHT

Director: David Ayer
Writer: Max Landis
Stars: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace

On paper there’s a version of “Bright” that has a lot of promise. Will Smith is back in action mode, it’s being directed by David Ayer (“End of Watch”) and it’s blending the fantasy and cop genres. The only problem is that despite Netflix greenlighting the $90 billion dollar actioner and staying out of the way, “Bright” is an incoherent mess that wastes a ton of talent both in front of and behind the camera. It’s a failure on a variety of levels in some of the same ways that Smith and Layer’s last collaboration “Suicide Squad” was. The first problem with “Bright” is that its world building and mythology never feel organic. The whole concept of a bright is explained and it’s assumed to be common knowledge but it never feels like anything more than a story thread the audience has to keep track of. The graffiti around Los Angeles is meant to give the audience a window into the racial/special hierarchy but the story never really does anything with it.

The premise of “Bright” is that humans, orcs, elves, and other mythical creatures were at war 2,000 years ago and now all coexist. Magic wands exist but only a “bright” can touch it. A non-bright would otherwise explode. “Will Smith is Daryl Ward an LAPD cop with a ton of debt and a sick daughter. He is stuck with the LAPD’s first orc cop in Joel Edgerton’s Nick Jakoby. Jakoby is reviled by his fellow officers both because the hatred between the two species and Jakoby’s alleged choice of species over cop in an incident where Ward gets shot. The only function any of the other officers have is to tell Ward he needs to get rid of Jakoby. Ward is pressured into setting up Jakoby during a call to a murder call where a wand is discovered along with the only remaining survivor is an elf named Tikka (Noomi Rapace). Things go sideways fast as Ward and Jakoby are being hunted by a Mexican gang, the LAPD, the orc gang, and a cult that wants to bring about a dark lord.

The movie seems to be about Ward accepting Jakoby as his partner but the film never establishes why specifically Ward hates orcs. There’s a line comparing the human/orc hatred to the way Latinos are still viewed negatively because of the Alamo but that doesn’t quite cut it. In fact, for a film that tries to use genre to make a point about race relations both inside and outside the police department. “Zootopia” manages this feat but “Bright” falls utterly short of that goal especially when it actually depicts minority characters. It also isn’t clear if Ward is supposed to hate only orcs or if he’s just completely prejudice against all mythical creatures. Ward is a similar character to Smith’s character in “I Robot” except at least in the latter film, the character’s hatred of robots is grounded in something. Ward also has that weird tic that dragged Smith’s Deadshot in “Suicide Squad” where the audience can’t completely hate Ward because he has a daughter. Jakoby on the other hand is handled better. He is well meaning, a tad dim, but is completely adrift in the world. He’s hated by the orcs and humans alike and the film has moments where it explores that but it gets lost in between action scenes.

The motivations of the dark cult aren’t clear. Sure, it’s established they’re trying to use a magic wand to bring back a dark lord but there’s no explanation as to why. It’s easy to say, because evil, but that’s just lazy. In “Hellboy II” Prince Nuada had a clear motivation to want to raise the Golden Army. He despised that humanity banished all magical creatures and their greed caused them to pave paradise and put up a parking lot. In “Bright” the whole dark lord plot gets lost in the shuffle and doesn’t come back until the end. The film loses a lot of threads actually and by the end it tries to reintroduce those threads but like one of Abe Simpson’s stories they don’t go anywhere.

Another baffling thing is that as capable an action director as David Ayer is, the action and effects look shoddy. Netflix made a big deal about the $90 million price tag but outside of the make-up and salaries it’s hard to see where that money went. Aside from showing the Los Angeles skylines the geography of the LA in “Bright” is as muddled as the mythology. Much like “Suicide Squad” it’s a pleasure to see Smith back in swagger mode but because the story around him is weak the swagger feels labored. Edgerton does a decent job of disappearing into his character and as the film goes on there is a fun buddy cop dynamic that almost develops between the two. Noomi Rapace is wasted here. Her character is merely a plot device and she ultimately gets nothing to do. There is a subplot involving two Magic task force agents, an elf and a human that goes nowhere except to signal another threat.

“Bright” was an opportunity for Netflix to signal that they are the place where action movies that aren’t a pre-existing IP or a remake of a classic can be made. Unfortunately, it feels like an example for studios to hold up as to why they don’t greenlight these kind of movies anymore. Netflix has already greenlit a sequel so by their voodoo metrics they consider “Bright” a success. The premise can be salvaged but it would require Netflix being more hands on.

Advertisements

Suicide Squad (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

SUICIDE SQUAD

Director: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Stars: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie 

So I decided to finally watch Suicide Squad the other day. It’s honking critic reviews and widespread criticisms of averageness from just about anyone who’d seen it had put me off going to the cinema during its release or even watching upon its arrival to blu-ray. Being in the midst of a comic book movie watching splurge however, freshly coming off the back of both the Wonder Woman and Spider-Man releases, I decided to take the plunge and give it a bash. Before I delve deeper, I’ll start off by saying that shock horror! It’s not a classic, nor is it in the class of the aforementioned films. Having said that though, it’s not anywhere near as bad as I thought it would either.

If you’ve not watched the film yet or perhaps haven’t even heard of the premise behind the name Suicide Squad then I’ll briefly summarise. They’re essentially a group of anti-heroes in captivity that are forced to work together in a series of missions with their impending death at the hands of an explosive implanted into their heads supplying them with a strong motivation to work together.

The unofficial leader in this iteration is Deadshot (Will Smith), a master marksman as the name implies with a chequered hitman past. Then you’ve got Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the bat shit crazy, sidekick and love interest of Mr. J; Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), a man with trust issues that likes to rob banks and throw a boomerang about; El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a introspective Hispanic chap with the nifty ability to wield fire; Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a brooding, ferocious loner who’s appearance resembles a reptile (hence the name) and finally Katana (Karen Fukuhara), a samurai wielding, ninja like superheroine. There’s also Slipknot, but he dies so early that he’s an irrelevance.

Now that’s out the way, I’ll get onto the actual film itself. I didn’t really care for the story here. It was pretty uninspiring, not the most engaging, lacked a proper villain or threat of any kind and it took far too long to introduce the characters. I’d say the opening thirty or forty minutes or so was dedicated to sequentially introducing each of the Suicide Squad members, which is ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, with it essentially being an origin film, chocked full of new characters, it was a necessary evil. I get that and I actually quite enjoyed the little short story, montages that played for each of them. It did do a reasonable job of showing what each was about. They were too damn long though and the story definitely suffered as a result.

And whilst we’re talking about the story, what the hell was that villain all about? The Enchantress? Sorry, nah. She did nothing and I mean nothing throughout the entire film. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and Griggs (Ike Barinholtz) were more impactful in that regard. The former as the leader of the secret government agency tasked with keeping the group in check and the latter a sadistic guard.

It was basically a prolonged introduction followed by a series of interconnected action sequences that seemed to play out across ten blocks worth of the city. To makes matters worse, they criminally underused the Joker character. I’m actually scratching my head in bemusement as to why he was even in it. His character had no rhyme or reason for being near the film, no place in the plot, made even less impact than the terrible Enchantress, seemed to serve solely as a twisted romantic side thread and plot device to delve back into Harley Quinn’s story. I wasn’t even that impressed by Leto’s portrayal either. He’s a cracking, extremely talented actor, but it did nothing for me. It’s a tough act following on from Heath Ledger though and he had little to work off, at least in those scenes that made the final cut, so I’ll try not to be too harsh.

Margot Robbie however was incredible. She’s had a fantastic few years and seems tailor made for the role. Despite being given one liners that would make Arnie cringe, she still managed to overcome it with the standout performance. There was the perfect balance of a sultry, seductress and charming craziness, with genuine funny moments flung in for good measure. I can understand why DC are looking to cash in on thag particular hype train.

Another performance that impressed was Will Smith’s. He managed to come across as a anti-hero badass for the most part, but also brought real humanity to the character. They tried this with a couple of the others too, in particular El Diablo, but Deadshot’s backstory with his daughter and the whole struggle to maintain their relationship was the best developed out with those previously mentioned Harley Quinn flashbacks. That was another disappointing aspect of the film for me. Barring Deadshot and Quinn, there wasn’t much focus on the other members. Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang barely got a mention following the opening ‘reels’ and Katana got one line about her dead husbands soul being trapped in the sword.

This is one area that I feel DC really need to improve upon. It goes back to what I was saying earlier. There were far too many new characters being introduced that really should have been given standalone films prior to this being released. That would’ve freed up more running time for a better plot.

It’s funny because reading this back, it honestly comes across like I hated this film, but I genuinely didn’t. It’s not THAT bad a film. It’s a good bit of fun, harmless, escapism with some interesting (and not so) personalities brought together. The action for the most part was excellent, the soundtrack worked well, was extremely enjoyable and visually it was a complete delight on the eyes. Special shoutout to Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag who was another positive. I’m enjoying his involvement in House of Cards just now and was pleased to see him giving a good account of himself here. That said, the forced romantic sub-plot with him and June Moone (the woman possessed with the Enchantress) at best lacked chemistry, wasn’t very believable and at worst was completely unnecessary.

So my final thoughts on this then. Would I recommend it to anybody else yet to see it? Hmm… depends on whether you can get a good quality video on YouTube with most of Harley Quinn’s scenes or not. No seriously, kidding aside, it’s worth a watch despite the onslaught of negativity that’s plagued it. It’s a deeply flawed film, but there’s still enough positives buried within to recommend giving it at least one viewing.

Rating: 2.5/5

 

Fury (2014) Movie Retro Review by John Walsh

FURY

Director: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Stars: Brad Pitt,  Shia LaBeouf,  Logan Lerman

David Ayers Fury is actually one of the better war films involving tank warfare, but if you’re something of an anal World War II aficionado then it’s probably not the film for you regardless. Set in April 1945, at the tail end of said war, it follows the heroics of a Sherman tank crew as they make their way into Germany to bring about an end to the conflict at last. The German soldiers, by this point deeply entrenched, well up for a prolonged fight and steadfastly hanging onto their fanaticism, even despite their growing misfortunes, have other ideas however.

Nope, there’s no renewed focus on the Battle of the Bulge in the densely forested Ardennes or any real historical battles for that matter. The former is already long gone when Fury hits our screen. The Germans are already surrendering in their droves and in the absence of an actual real life depiction is the fictitious exploits of Sgt. Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier. Don is a battle hardened tank commander who has, against all the odds, managed to lead his crew from North Africa to Germany. That’s no mean feat in a conflict that was notoriously unkind to tanks, so you see he’s not a man to be trifled with. Of course, not everybody in his crew made it through in one piece and it’s at that junction that the film begins.

Ayer introduces the four veteran crew members in a striking opening scene, involving a positively regal looking German officer, riding a dashing white stallion. You’d be forgiven for thinking there was a brief time slip into an alternate reality as he surveys the aftermath of a unnamed battle. The reality of the German situation soon returns however when Collier pounces from his seemingly abandoned tank to brutally take the man down. The others, in the process of performing a quick mechanical repair throw insults around, giving an early hint that they’ve been together a while and seen some shit. Having clearly grown close and christened each other with nicknames, they include; Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan (Shia LeBeouf); Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia (Michael Peña) and Grady ‘Coon-ass’ Travis (Jon Bernthal).

There’s one man missing, the recently departed ‘Red’. An ironically perverse nickname, because all that remains of his presence within the cramped confines of the tank is a hideously, realistically, recreated piece of scalp (well done FX people) and copious amounts of blood. The others clearly still mourning his loss aren’t in any mood to deal with his nervous, boyish, replacement upon arriving back at their base camp and quickly task him with cleaning the gory mess. And believe me, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) doesn’t want to be there any more than they want him to be there. Plucked from a clerical position, he’s of the sensitive variety and not remotely up for the dangers of front line fighting.

This doesn’t sit at all well with Wardaddy, a man who’s earned his crews respect for being a strangely conflicted, disciplinarian, father figure. After asking the young chap if he’s “done much killing?”, he decides tough love is the best way to, well, toughen him up. How does he do this? By slapping him around a little and forcing a gun into his hand, before firing it in the direction of a German prisoner. The development of Norman was a little stereotypical, corny and crudely executed for me. Ayer laid on the sensitivity of the character a little too thickly, which having him play piano in a young German woman’s house (actually one of my favourite scenes incidentally, purely for the interesting dynamic that plays out between the crew) to further highlight, perfectly summed up.

It’s an action film at heart though, and in its defence, doesn’t really require any complicated, fleshed out personalities or even complex thematics to be any good. It just needs something resembling a plot, eye catching visuals and a decent cast. It has at least two of those. I’m actually still not sure what the story was about, out with Norman’s personal journey and blowing shit up? Visually, it really is quite something though. From the sets, period costume designs, all the way to the tank/s themselves. It certainly feels like World War II and the gore was ratcheted up to stomach churning levels. Heads and limbs are blown off, and bodies are crushed under the tracks of the tank. That showdown between the Tiger and the Sherman’s was certainly enjoyable too and they did a very decent job of filming inside the tight interior of the tank.

It does have a very decent cast too, there can be no complaints there. Brad Pitt is pretty damn good in his role as Wardaddy. Yes, it has shades of Aldo Raine, but he plays the battle hardened role so well and Collier alongside Norman is perhaps the only character I felt any emotional connection with (even then it was minute). Logan Lerman is the standout here however. His character has by far the most the development (even if it isn’t amazingly executed) and depth. He puts in a believable and excellent performance as young man living the horrors of war. Out of the other three main protagonists Shia LeBeouf edges it, well he more than edges to be fair, as Bible. I don’t particularly like the guy off screen, but he’s practically unrecognisable in this role and I can’t fault him. Bernthal and Peña were fine without excelling.

In fairness though, I can’t be too overly critical of any of their performances, because in all honesty, they worked wonders with fairly two dimensional characters that, like I said, besides Don and Norman lacked any depth or personality. And that right there is the main gripe I have with this film. The story is unmemorable and slightly rubbish. It basically follows the crew as they go from one generic skirmish to another with the odd recuperation between. The final stand that pitted the five against a SS platoon was a head scratcher, telegraphed and came across as a weird rip-off of Saving Private Ryan. Unlike that film, I was never truly invested in any of the main characters and so had no emotional investment in their inevitable deaths. Ayer (spoiler alert) killed them off one by one and I genuinely didn’t care, which shouldn’t be the case.

Having said that now, would I recommend this film? Hmm… it’s a tough one. It’s still a decent action flick and as long as you go in with zero expectation of anything more then some enjoyment could still be taken. So depending on who you are, yes and no.