The Movie Waffler New Release Review (VOD) - BRIGHT | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review (VOD) - BRIGHT

bright netflix review
In an alternate reality Los Angeles, a human cop and his orc partner become involved in a long prophesied event.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: David Ayer

Starring: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry, Jay Hernandez, Edgar Ramirez

bright netflix poster

Ever wondered how it might feel to hold 90 million dollars in the palm of your hand? Well grab your smartphone, boot up the Netflix app and take a gander at Bright, because that's just how much the streaming giants have reportedly spent on their latest original production. 2017 has certainly been the year in which traditional movie distributors have been forced to consider Netflix a serious contender, but so far its most notable productions have been auteur driven films like Bong Joon Ho's Okja, Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories and Angelina Jolie's First They Killed My Father, movies that would most likely play at arthouses if released theatrically. A sci-fi action romp headlined by Will Smith, directed by Suicide Squad's David Ayer and penned by cult screenwriter Max Landis, Bright sees Netflix throw down the gauntlet to take on the multiplex.

bright netflix

The online would be blockbuster is set in an alternate version of present day Los Angeles, where the city is divided between humans, orcs, elves and fairies. The elves are the one-percenters of this world, the wealthy folk at the top of the heap, while at the bottom are the orcs, despised by elves and humans alike. The fairies...well, they just flutter around until someone swats them.

In a fantastical riff on the Dirty Harry sequel The Enforcer, LAPD officer Daryl Ward (Smith) finds himself reluctantly partnered with a rookie orc, Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), as part of a diversity program. While investigating the scene of a multiple homicide, the pair come across Tikka (Lucy Fry), a young elf who happens to possess one of three magic wands that once united will give their owner untold magical powers (yes, it's Justice League all over again). The trio find themselves on the run through the LA night, chased by corrupt cops and a mysterious gang of murderous elves, while evading street gangs, both human and 'orcish'.

bright netflix

Ayer carries over his much mocked Hot Topic aesthetic from Suicide Squad, opening his film with a montage of graffitied slogans that give us a rough idea of the orcs' lowly place in the world. The rest of the backstory is delivered crudely through dialogue, mostly consisting of mumbo jumbo concerning prophecies, with Smith frequently calling on his well worn "Aww hell no!" schtick to guide the viewer through the madness.

The director is best known for a series of movies set in the milieu of the LAPD - Training Day, Dark Blue, End of Watch - and Bright is at its most convincing in its early sequences as we hang out with Ward and Jakoby making the rounds of their beat in this odd version of the City of Angels. As ridiculous as the concept of Landis's script is, Smith and Edgerton share enough chemistry to suck us into the reality of its world, though the latter struggles to emote through his restrictive makeup.

bright netflix

Things get less interesting once the main plot kicks in and Bright becomes a generic chase movie. The concept would seem ripe for social allegory - ala 1988's Alien Nation and its TV spinoff - but this is something neither Ayer nor Landis have much interest in, aside from a few throwaway one-liners ("Fairy lives don't matter today," Ward quips as he beats one of the diminutive creatures to death with a broom). Instead the film gets bogged down in its own half-baked mythology while offering a few blandly staged action set-pieces, most of which feature poorly selected songs playing over self-congratulatory slo-mo shots of cops, orcs and elves getting gunned down. Ironically, given its title, much of the action of Bright takes place in lighting so dim that you'll find yourself adjusting the brightness on your TV/laptop/tablet/phone just to get a handle on what's happening, but even then it's not entirely clear, thanks to Ayer's fondness of shakey-cam and quick cuts.

Putting aside Smith's wages, it's difficult to see where the money went, as Ayer's film is less visually impressive than the low budget sci-fi thrillers of the '80s (it very much belongs to the same lineage as The Hidden, The Terminator and Dark Angel) that appear to have inspired it. Bright may have a blockbuster budget, but you're not missing out on much by seeing it in your living room rather than at your local popcorn parlour.

Bright is on Netflix December 22nd.