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One Movie Punch

Jan 2, 2018

“Bright” (2017) is a convoluted genre mashup film, combining the fantasy and buddy cop genres with mixed results. The film is set in an alternate modern reality, where classic fantasy species like orcs and elves have existed with humans since the dawn of time. The elves run the world, representing the moneyed class, while the orcs are confined to the ghettos, economically victimized for actions taken two millennia ago.

The film opens with Will Smith, playing Officer Daryl Ward, a human, waiting for Joel Edgerton, playing Officer Jakoby, the world’s first orcish police officer. Officer Ward takes a shotgun bullet to the chest, while Officer Jakoby fails to capture the suspect, which creates additional tension on top of the latent racism between humans and orcs. The officers later respond to a call involving an elf with a magic wand.

Ward and Jakoby spend the rest of the film keeping the magic wand away from the renegade elf owner, their fellow officers, a latino street gang, an orcish street gang, and pretty much everyone else. The setting and concept for the film leave so many questions regarding the history of this world and how it operates, except in the most visually superficial of ways, like the admittedly excellent costumes and make-up.

Officer Ward comes off as an unconvincing, conflicted racist. Smith’s strength is in playing a lovable smartass, but his lines make him sound like a total asshole. Joel Edgerton is awful as Nick Jakoby, with idiotic lines that cover up the passing mentions of the nobility of orcs. The relationship between Smith and Edgerton lacks chemistry, which should be essential for the buddy cop genre, and their banter feels forced or falls flat.

And Noomi Rapace, as Tikka, is extremely reminiscent of Leela from 1997’s “The Fifth Element”. The film becomes a series of badly executed scenes, where even the amazing fighting style of the elves is hard to take seriously in person versus car fight in a convenience store, for example. Extra elements, like a dragon flying in the sky during a transition, tend to pull the viewer out of the experience, while others scenes hit you over the head with their allegorical significance.

Overall, I think “Bright” has too many elements to make a solid film, which is similar to David Ayer’s work on “Suicide Squad” (2016). The film could lose a half hour of content and a few sub-plots... and still effectively tell the story. Alternatively, the universe developed in this film would make for an excellent police procedural television series, allowing more time to reveal the history and to help develop the characters in meaningful ways. 

Rotten Tomatoes:    28%

Metacritic:          29/100

One Movie Punch:    4.4/10

“Bright” (2017) is available for immediate streaming on Netflix.