Directed by David Ayer
Netflix Review by Brandon Bishop
“Can you get me a burrito AND do your job?”
Netflix dips its toes into big-budget filmmaking with Bright, a Netflix Original film directed by David Ayer of Suicide Squad, and starring Will Smith. Bright depicts an alternate modern day in which the races of fantasy worlds, such as Orcs, Elves, Fairies, and the like exist in the real world. Will Smith plays Officer Ward, who has been out of commission for a time after having been shot on the job, and Joel Edgerton portrays his partner, Officer Jakoby. Jakoby is the first uniformed Orc in the Los Angeles Police Department.
Bright does a lot of things very well. The movie works hard to realize its “modern-age” fantasy setting as early as the opening credits, which depict fascinating graffiti painted by humans as well as Orcs. The production design is spot-on, and make-up on the fantasy races is as high quality as it is unique. Elves and Orcs may look a little more human than in popular franchises such as The Lord of the Rings, but Bright gives them a unique, gritty look that works in this world. Bright offers a lot of social commentary, to varying degrees of success, and features quite a few well-written dialogue scenes. The lead characters and setting help hold this film to a higher standard than the story could have on its own.
Will Smith is as likable as ever. Smith’s charisma works great for Officer Ward and brings levity to a character focused on just getting through each day. Tensions are high with his partner, Edgerton’s Officer Jakoby. Ward has some qualms with his new situation, but isn’t interested in causing a stir. Edgerton also brings his A-game and injects vital humanity into Jakoby. Will Smith and Joel Edgerton bring a lot of life to the otherwise grim proceedings. The public and a number of police officers don’t believe that an Orc should be allowed to wear the uniform. Unfortunately, most of the supporting cast fit cleanly into stock characters you’ve seen before. As such, some of the social commentary feels forced, but it means well and when it works, it works abundantly.
Unfortunately, beyond it’s two leads and a thrilling action scene midway through, the film largely falls flat. It’s socially relevant themes get mostly lost in a weak plot, populated by weak or expendable supporting characters. A major failing of the mostly successful setting is a pair of characters that represent a government organization devoted to controlling magic use. The idea intrigues, but the execution disappoints. Noomi Rapace, known for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy and Prometheus, gets largely wasted here as a villainous elf. She fails to come off as intimidating and has few scenes and fewer with any dialogue. Disappointing and unfortunate that such a talented woman gets relegated to just a few scenes and offers little interest or excitement to the proceedings, especially in a film that desires to be relevant and support diversity.
Thinly plotted, the film’s story offers a lot of cliché and not a lot of substance. Bright showed a lot of promise, and to its credit, it is fun, a little funny, but isn’t as smart as it wants to be. The movie works well enough moment to moment, largely thanks to its two leads, but doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts. Frankly, it works best as a buddy movie and has its fair share of heart in that regard, but not as well as a fantasy film, police drama, or even socially relevant piece. It shouts diversity, but mostly fails to fulfill its own aspirations. Will Smith and Joel Edgerton do their jobs well but can’t hold up the movie on their own. The setting has a lot of promise, but the film delivers little substance.