"Bright" Review: The Rumors Are True
By this time, you’ve unwrapped your gifts, dealt with a little family love and drama, and might be getting in a little work before the New Year break. So why not escape from reality for a couple hours with director David Ayer’s Bright? Let’s just say that’s not a bright idea. Yeah, because the film is about as corny as that last pun.
Will Smith is Daryl Ward, a veteran cop who is getting back out on the street with his orc partner, Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), after being shot by a criminal. It’s bad enough that orcs are considered scum in this world of humans, elves, and fairies, but diversity hire Jakoby is a part of the reason Ward was shot. So Jakoby is hated by virtually everyone in his life and his own kind. When a routine response uncovers a magic wand at the residence, the two partners are the most sought after cops in...can we call it Middle-earth for kicks? Everyone wants the wand because whoever wields it can be granted whatever they wish for. The problem is, only a Bright can hold it and live.
Thus, a survive the night film of sorts kicks off. Not the kind that Ayers is good for, but the kind of buddy-cop drama that just doesn’t work, reminiscent of the films that came out post Lethal Weapon. While the world building in the film is decent, you constantly feel like something isn’t quite right. You’re waiting for a punch line that’s never revealed. Maybe that’s the problem; the film takes itself seriously. With elves that do acrobatic martial arts moves and don’t miss when it comes to taking a shot, in the midst of a barrage of bullets that miss, it’s hard to believe. It’s also hard to believe there’s no racist themes underlying the film. With the orcs as baggy clothe wearing gangsters living in the slums, the elite elves wearing the latest high-fashion clothes and living in a gentrified area, and humans fitting somewhere in between, the “races” lean into stereotypes. It’s certainly not the District 9 environment it strives to be.
When news hit that superstar Will Smith would be starring in a Netflix film, a sense of excitement hit blogs and media outlets. Seeing Smith in Bright is the equivalent of the time that you beat your dad in a race for the third time. You knew he hadn’t been winning for a while, and you thought maybe it was a fluke. This film cements Will’s range and the fact that his delivery is still stuck in the Bad Boys 2 era. Edgerton is wasted, but it’s probably a good thing that you can’t recognize him in all his orc make-up. Genius decision! Noomi Rapace adds a small spark of excitement as Leilah, the big baddy hunting down her wand.
At the end of the day, in order to bake a good cake, you take different ingredients and bring them together. Generally, they’re brought together with one or two key ingredients that can gel them all and poof! Deliciousness! Bright has all the right ingredients, but it’s lacking the jell to bring them together. Ayer is known for his signature style in the cop genre. He wrote Training Day! He wrote/directed End of Watch (a film I enjoyed)! He has skills. Ayer teamed with his longtime cinematographer, Roman Vasyanov, so the film’s look is definitely there. The cast on paper is a solid ensemble. Taking Ayer’s style and infusing it into a fantasy world could work had Max Landis’ script not been so disjointed.
There’s a reason Bright is getting a lot of buzz for being bad. It’s bad! Yet, the word of mouth that has drawn in 11 million viewers in the first three days maybe the kind of thing that years from now makes it a cult classic. Perhaps that’s why you checked out this review. Perhaps that’s while you’ll check it out yourself. Just don’t say you weren’t warned.