Film Review: Bright (2017)

Netflix Originals:

Bright, 2017

Directed by: David Ayer

Starring: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry, Edgar Ramirez, Ike Barinholtz

 

Unnecessarily racist, unnecessarily crude, unnecessarily convoluted and unnecessarily boring. Set in an alternate Los Angeles, Daryl Ward (Will Smith) and Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton, It Comes at Night) are two police officers (the latter of whom is the first and only orc to ever become a police officer, much to the chagrin of other orcs and humans) who find themselves heavily involved in the discovery of a magical wand, which can grant its owner anything they desire, but the wand can only be held and used by those who are called brights. The wand is sought after by a whole host of rival groups, from police officers to street gangs, but the main antagonist is Leilah (Noomi Rapace, What Happened to Monday), a dark elf who was betrayed by Tikka (Lucy Fry) who soon groups together with Daryl and Nick. Believe me, that’s a very basic description, it’s a lot more convoluted than that.

Going in I wasn’t sure what to expect; I was really entertained by What Happened to Monday but was really disappointed in Naked, and Bright sits comfortably in-between. Visually, the film is impressive and fits the genre and tone really well; it’s dark and gritty, yet surprisingly colourful. I went into this film expecting a lot more colours, having a rough idea of its plot, but I was surprised at the grittiness that I was presented with. But while it remained impressive in terms of visuals, the accompanying dialogue to match the tone doesn’t help the film. While I’m certainly not one to shy away from swearing in my work, Bright doesn’t really have a limit to how much swearing should feature. While it helps some scenes, there are so many instances of dialogue where the swearing has an overall negative impact.

And continuing on with the dialogue, the film is surprisingly racist. With Nick being an orc police officer, something which is majorly frowned upon, it brings on a lot of racial judgements and speeches about equality, to the point where it becomes noticeably obvious that they are trying to shoehorn in messages of equality to the real world. It also has an effect on us as if the police officers, and one of our protagonists, are racist and cruel, and the other option is initially presented as a bumbling idiot, it doesn’t start off our journey on a good note as we don’t really get given a side to choose.

I really enjoyed Noomi Rapace’s performance in What Happened to Monday and she delivers another solid performance here, despite not being given enough screen time for my liking. She plays an evil elf seeking the wand, but she comes across as just another in a long list of groups seeking the wand, and while I get the appeal that it makes Nick and Daryl appear greater if they’re surviving against everyone rather than just one group, it really dilutes the fear of Leilah’s power. It comes across more that they survive group one, then run into group two, then group three, rather than being faced with everyone. But Noomi Rapace isn’t the only one in this film who plays a decent role, as both Will Smith and Joel Edgerton deliver solid performances as leads.

One nice thing about this film, and probably is one of my favourite parts, is Nick’s journey throughout the film. While Nick and Daryl’s friendship is quite nice throughout, Nick’s journey as a loner, hated by his fellow police officers and his orc-kind, allows for a lot more emotional investment into him. At the very beginning we see that Daryl was shot while Nick didn’t have his back, and Nick subsequently let the orc-shooter escape, and this is played a lot throughout with a steady pacing of progression within the details. However there is a moment later on where it pays off, but it’s kind of wasted, which is a bit disappointing considering it seemed like a rare moment of decent writing. Nick is given motivations, challenges, reasons and emotions, much more so than what Daryl is given.

Speaking of disappointing pay offs, the big twist towards the end of the film is seriously underwhelming because it is so obviously foreshadowed, and I won’t spoil what it is but there’s a moment early on in the film which made it obvious to me where it was going, so when it happened I wasn’t surprised. Also, if they are fighting over a wand that can grant the user anything they desire (money, fame, happiness, family, legs) then it lessens anything that happens to our heroes or the villains as one side can simply use the wand to reverse decisions. After the first time it happens I found it quite difficult investing in anything else that happens.

While Bright has a big-name cast, and is reportedly one of the most expensively put-together films made by Netflix, it under-delivers. The acting is fine, the visuals are impressive, the story is passable but so much else is slightly off with the film, from the poor writing to the overly convoluted chase for the wand that it lessens the film’s overall appeal.

 

Plot: * *     Acting: * * *     Writing: * *     Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * ½

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