Movie Review: ‘Bright’
Plot: Set in an alternate Los Angeles where orcs, fairies, elves, and other creatures exist, Bright follows police officers Daryl Ward (Will Smith) and Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), L.A.P.D’s first orc police officer. After an extended leave of absence due to (possibly) Jakoby’s incompetence, Ward returns to work only to find that outside forces are gunning for Jakoby. Furthermore, a magic wand is lost somewhere within L.A. and everyone from the cops, orc and human gangs, and a fringe group of elves, looking to revive the Dark Lord, are desperately trying to obtain it.
Review: If director David Ayer’s (Fury, Suicide Squad) new film Bright sounds bonkers that’s because it is. If you crossed Training Day with Lord of the Rings with Lethal Weapon you’ll get a close approximation of what this film is actually like. And as bat-shit crazy insane as that three-way appears…it actually works.
Funny, quirky, action packed, occasionally melodramatic, and slightly messy, Bright never ceases to be entertaining. At a little under two hours, Bright moves at a steady pace that takes a breath at just the right times to break from the action. While Michael Tronick’s editing comes off slightly choppy at times, it never takes the focus off of our two heroes Ward and Jakoby.
Bright contains several great action set pieces including a shootout where the duo first discover the wand and a climax reminiscent of the wand battles from Harry Potter. Director Ayer has become quite adept as an action director and Bright proves the quality of film he can make when he’s not reigned in by studio interference (*cough cough* Warner Bros. *cough cough*). While the critical response has been pretty unfavorable, the audience reactions are mostly positive. So much so that a sequel was recently greenlit with Ayer attached. Much maligned lately, it’s nice to see Ayer get rewarded. He has the potential to be the John McTiernan of the 21st century if he keeps growing.
When you have a plot as insane as Bright it doesn’t work if the actors don’t buy into the material. After all, how are we as audience members supposed to have a reasonable suspension of disbelief if the actors reactions are basically, “Are we really doing this?” To their credit every actor and actress fully commit to this world. The roving orc gangs are believable as are the extremely advantaged elf class. Unfortunately, the problem with those two groups is that the social commentary comes off a little too on the nose. Orcs, especially the gangs, clearly represent a disenfranchised black community. People resent the orcs for siding with the Dark Lord 2,000 years ago. Additionally, the elves are clearly the 1% of society. Subtlety does not rule the day, but then again this is a crime-action thriller film involving orcs and elves.
However, the film hinges on the chemistry between the main protagonists and Smith and Edgerton are on point. It’s an initially antagonistic relationship as Ward blames Jakoby for Ward getting shot. The antagonism reflects the overall mood of the L.A.P.D. who resent Jakoby’s presence and want him gone. So much so that there’s an active movement to remove him that puts Ward in a tough position. This results in one scene in particular that proves to be the most emotional of the film. Granted this is a hand in glove role for Smith, with Will Smith being his Will Smith-iest and definitely channeling Bad Boys here, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Edgerton, buried under a mountain of makeup and completely unrecognizable, has the biggest challenge and he fares well. Jakoby is a character that’s a huge departure for Edgerton who usually sticks to dramatic roles in films like Warrior and Loving, so it’s nice to see him stretch his range. Jakoby is very aware that he’s the Jackie Robinson of orc police officers as he’s the first ever orc cop in the L.A.P.D. He’s a conflicted person torn between the badge and the orc community which treats him like a pariah. The police are not trusted by the orc community so they see this as a betrayal. You can’t help but root for Jakoby in this film. I would like to have seen a little more insight into his family life, something which we do get from Ward.
Both characters and their relationship evolve throughout the course of the movie albeit in expected ways. While it’s not quite on par with the Riggs/Murtaugh level of the Lethal Weapon films, this isn’t Ponch and Baker from last year’s horrible CHiPs movie either. I definitely look forward to seeing further escapades from this duo in the sequel.
One thing that did bother me about Bright was Noomi Rapace’s character Leilah, an elf trying to bring back the Dark Lord and the titular villain of the film. Her character wasn’t particularly interesting and Leilah’s motivations for bringing back the Dark Lord are murky at best. Is she doing so to gain power? To unleash Hell on Earth, to get him to bring back the McRib permanently? I don’t know. Additionally, there’s a twist so obvious that when it happens it’s not at all unexpected.
Nevertheless, if you want to check out and be entertained for a few hours you could do a lot worse than Bright.
My rating System:
0-1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
4 Sub Par
8 Very Good
10 A Must See
You can follow me on Twitter at @DarthGandalf1