2017, No MPAA Rating, 117 mins.
Will Smith as Daryl Ward / Joel Edgerton as Nick Jakoby / Noomi Rapace as Leilah / Lucy Fry as Tikka
Directed by David Ayer / Written by Max Landis
The ironically titled BRIGHT is a would-be compelling genre mishmash effort that's so dull and uninspired in terms of execution that you have to wonder where its near $100 million budget went.
most expensive feature film in their history was able to use that capital to nab
a high marquee star and director in Will Smith and David Ayer away from
theatrical productions and to the streaming service, and the end results
clearly reveal that their talents were never fully utilized.
BRIGHT has a somewhat ingenuously intriguing premise that combines a
contemporary cops thriller and procedural with social commentary and pure
fantasy, but it rarely seems to find a manner to make all of its seemingly
unrelated elements gel smoothly together.
The lack of core universe building on display here is kind of
I gotta admit: Ayer (SUICIDE SQUAD,
END OF WATCH,
and screenwriter Max Landis (CHRONICLE
and AMERICAN ULTRA)
must have given this flick a slick pitch: Imagine a film that's like ALIEN
NATION meets TRAINING DAY meets THE LORD OF THE RINGS...all set in modern,
but alternative timeline L.A. that has humanity living an uneasy
co-existence with orcs, elves, and other creatures ripe from the mind of
J.R.R. Tolkien...and with a healthy dosage of themes that parallel human and
non-human relationships with that of whites and ethnic groups.
To say that BRIGHT is high concept and ambitious minded would be
the grandest of understatements, not to mention that the underlining hook
here seems like the perfect launching pad for a potentially rich and
Regrettably, Ayer and Landis fumble the ball at making all of their
film's ideas work, and their mostly feeble and obvious attempts at dealing
with racial injustice on multiple fronts lacks nuance and seems extremely
Smith's bigoted cop scream out - after bashing a small fairy that's been
loitering on his front porch - that "Fairy lives don't matter!"
then you gain an immediate sense of this film's lack of subtlety.
In the alternate
history version of this film's Earth humans, orcs, and elves have had a
very tenuous relationship and have fought - in one form or another - for
thousands of years. In present day L.A. (which looks perplexing like the real
L.A., despite having centuries of fantasy creatures living with humans) we meet Smith's aforementioned police
officer, veteran of the force Daryl Ward, who recently has been partnered
against his will with Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton, buried on layers of very
convincing makeup), who has become the city's very first orc cop working
the beat. Nick, like most of
his kind, is ridiculed for being different, but he shares the human trait
of wanting to do his duty and protect and serve the public.
Nevertheless, he becomes a smear campaign target by both humans who
hate his kind and by his own race, who see him as - pardon the pun - a
copout that's sold his occupational soul to the enemy.
really takes a disliking to Nick, mostly because there's evidence to
suggest that he let a fellow orc escape from police capture, which led to
the creature shooting and nearly killing Daryl.
As troubled as their working relationship is, Daryl finds himself
being forced to continue to work with his "diversity hire"
despite having serious trust issues with him.
As the pair learn to deal with each other on patrol their find
themselves embroiled in a massive conspiracy that involves a clandestine
elf society and a very lucrative magic wand that only magic users called
"brights" can harness to its full power (the unworthy that touch
it explode). Predictably,
Daryl and Nick get their hands on one of those sought after wands and also
an all powerful elf Bright (Lucy Fry) that everyone - including rogue
elements of the LAPD - wants to apprehend for their own nefarious
BRIGHT has a
few...er...bright spots, especially when it comes to the casting of Joel
Edgerton as the beleaguered orc, who manages to make this strange and
grotesque looking creature sort of serenely charming and a figure of
sympathy despite being absolutely unrecognizable with makeup (which,
again, is pretty sensational). The
overall look of the orcs is uniquely varied, with the bottom feeders
looking like inner city thugs replete with tattoos, gang colors and
also reliably gives the otherwise fantastical BRIGHT a street level grit
and unpredictable intensity that he has successfully fostered in previous
cop thrillers. There's
clearly an attempt made here, I guess, to flesh out some of the
particulars of this outlandishly strange and cockamamie world, and having
talented and fly-in-under-the-radar actors like Edgerton play things
straight despite the madness of what surrounds him allows BRIGHT to not
come off as unintentionally comedic.
performance, oddly enough, is one of the film's detrimental
aspects, seeing as he mostly coasts by and never fully harnesses his
frequently unmatched on screen charisma of past roles.
That, and Daryl is not particularly likable nor fully deserving of
our rooting interest, even when Landis' screenplay goes through the
obligatory motions of making this initially odious character turn a new
leaf and learn the error of his bigoted ways.
BRIGHT's handling of its themes, as mentioned, also does the film
no favors whatsoever. Now, considering the fact that Daryl is African American and
a deeply racist individual when it comes to Nick would make for some
ironically compelling story beats, but Landis' handling of the narrative
trajectory doesn't seem to allow for such thoughtful investigation.
And, yeah...I get it...BRIGHT is aiming for parallels between the
racial discrimination between orcs and humans with white people and
minorities, but they're so weakly handled and aggressively in your face
that it makes such allegorical referencing redundant.
Smart movies don't tell you what they're about; they show you what
they're about: BRIGHT seems to
be so nonsensically preachy in the former category.
that this Netflix film has a budget that rivals other theatrical studio
fare, the genuine lack of conceptual imagination and design in fleshing
out this world is one of BRIGHT's biggest lost opportunities.
Visually, Ayer's touch here never taps into the endless
possibilities of such a crowded and multi-species world, and instead he
places most key sequences in darkly lit ghetto streets, abandoned and
decrepit warehouses, and other desolate locations that drown out this
film's own sense of the otherworldly.
We get a brief glimpse of how the upper class elf high rollers
live, but it's so fleeting and nonchalantly thrown in that you want to
throw up your hands in frustration while watching.
Most saddening is how BRIGHT eventually builds towards a climax of
stale cop genre troupes and mechanically derived payoffs that feel like
they belong in antiquated action films from the distant past.
BRIGHT also never fosters a legitimately worthy villain, with the closet thing approximating that being Noomi Rapace's blank staring and white haired elf that's all venomous hatred and not much else. With this film's already too-long-for-its-own-good running time of nearly two hours, it's staggering how little plot and character development there is here. BRIGHT is one of those annoyingly uneventful P.W.P. efforts, or films that have a premise without payoff. I applaud the ambition on display in this Netflix Studio effort, but this fantasy/buddy cop thriller is wholly bereft of innovation and evocative style. Conflictingly, BRIGHT takes itself as serious as a heart attack to the point of it lacking in pure entertainment value while also being too broadly silly at other times to be taken seriously. Netflix has been recently raising their monthly subscription fees with alarming frequency. If that extra money is going into producing lackluster productions like BRIGHT then most of us should be considering canceling our subscriptions.