Bright (2017)

  • Time: 117 min
  • Genre: Action | Crime | Fantasy
  • Director: David Ayer
  • Cast: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, Edgar Ramírez


Set in a world where mystical creatures live side by side with humans. A human cop is forced to work with an Orc to find a weapon everyone is prepared to kill for.

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  • Imagine, if you will, that the events depicted in The Lord of the Rings were actual history. Now imagine that, centuries later in present day Los Angeles, Orcs and Elves live in uneasy peace not only with one another but with humans as well. Welcome to Bright, written by Max Landis and directed by David Ayer, which attempts to marry the fantastical elements of J.R.R. Tolkien’s saga to a gritty cop movie whilst also trying to be a Will Smith vehicle. It’s by no means the easiest of tasks and, whilst one can admire the filmmakers’ imagination and ambition, it’s not particularly difficult to overlook their sloppy execution.

    Smith stars as Daryl Ward, a veteran police officer who doesn’t want anything to jeopardise his pension, though both his wife and young daughter naturally worry over his safety not only because everybody hates policemen, as his daughter points out, but because Ward has been partnered with Nick Jacoby (Joel Edgerton, not letting tons of latex and makeup impede him from giving a heartfelt performance). Jacoby is the first Orc allowed on the force but his status as an “un-blooded one” means he’s never really committed to any one clan; his loyalty, especially after an incident in which he witnessed Ward getting shot by an Orc, who managed to escape, is continually called into question. Everyone, including Ward, just wants him off the force though the idealistic Jacoby insists that the badge means everything to him.

    Jacoby’s fealty and his fragile partnership with Ward are soon tested during one long nightmare of a night when they stumble upon a crime scene containing dead bodies that have obviously been killed by some sort of magical force. There is a sole survivor, a young elf named Tikka (Lucy Fry), who is in possession of a powerful magic wand that she has been protecting from her sister Leilah (Noomi Rapace). The wand is very much a wanted weapon, able to make the impossible possible, but there’s one hitch: only a “bright” can hold it without self-combusting. Without giving too much away, the two cops and Tikka are soon on the run, with everyone from corrupt cops to dangerous Orc thugs to Leilah and her lethal squad of rogue elves on their tail.

    On the plus side, the filmmakers do a very good job with its world-building. The hierarchy is clear, at times painfully so: the Elves are the elite one percenters, the racially diverse humans the middle class, and the Orcs the oppressed and discriminated lower class. Its numerous action sequences, whether it be a shootout in a strip club or a showdown in a service station, are excitingly staged. Yet, for each impressive moment comes ten or twenty of total tripe. Much of the dialogue is either heavy-handed, misguided (“Fairy lives don’t matter”), lazy, or simply awful. Its comic tone is too broad, haphazard and often at odds with the subject matter at hand. Tikka and Leilah are essentially near carbon copies of The Fifth Element’s Leiloo and Blade Runner’s Pris, respectively – neither Fry nor Rapace are given much to work with nor, for that matter, is Edgar Ramírez, the Elf leader of a Men in Black-like task force.

    Ayer, whose promise in Harsh Times and End of Watch is fast fading into memory, seems stuck in Suicide Squad mode as far as his dank, hyper-stylised visuals are concerned. Perhaps helming Netflix’s most expensive movie to date may have given him more creative control but, after this and the mess that was Suicide Squad, he might do well to return to working within more constricted budgets though that seems unlikely to happen anytime soon, given that he’s attached to direct the Suicide Squad spin-off, Gotham City Sirens.

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