Review by C.J. Bunce
It’s the largest direct to television film yet made, the $90 million new Christmas weekend Netflix-only release Bright. And it’s a welcome addition to the world of mash-ups. It’s a fantasy, action, police procedural. It’s a Will Smith movie and a high-octane Assault on Precinct 13 and Training Day-inspired shoot-’em-up. It’s The Lord of the Rings meets Adam-12. And it’s also like a new film in the Alien Nation series or an episode of the short-lived Syfy series Defiance. The biggest downfall is that the opportunities for new stories within its massive world building merits more than just a one-shot story.
Joel Edgerton is fantastic as an Orc LAPD officer named Nick Jakoby who’s partnered with a human cop named Daryl Ward, played by Will Smith. It’s a parallel world where the past 2,000 years of Earth history have been blended with the trope world of classic high fantasy stories. Evil little fairies annoy and harass and cause mischief. Elves are refined and tend to run everything. Dragons fly unassuming across the night sky. Orcs are the dregs of society and humans are stuck somewhere in the middle. A Bright can be of any race, and federal agents responsible for magic are attempting to make certain a certain evil Bright is not reunited with a magic wand–an event that could return a dark power to annihilate the planet.
When Daryl and Nick pick up a Bright carrying a magic wand, gangs of humans and Orcs will stop at nothing to possess the wand–a rare object that can grant its owner any and every wish. But only a Bright can handle a wand, and like the One Ring from The Hobbit series, the temptation to take the wand is great–too great for some poor saps without self-control. The movie moves into a full-length action chase scene, with Daryl and Nick mirroring the cops in a very similar situation from Alien Nation. And also like Alien Nation, the subtext is a reflection of all of the ills of society.
The dialogue isn’t the greatest and the story is a bit thin, but the idea is so unusual that the film works as a television movie. Is it enough of a hit for a moviegoer paying $10 for a movie ticket? Maybe not. But for anyone who conducts a weekly search of Netflix to catch up on old movies or television series, Bright will be a great find. Edgerton’s performance as a classic Orc doubling as a cop with a racist partner in a squad full of bad cops is alone worth giving this one a chance.
For fans of Will Smith who liked his familiar character in Independence Day, Men in Black, Wild, Wild West, Hancock, or Suicide Squad, this will be another welcome Smith action flick. Joel Edgerton, who was brilliant in last year’s Midnight Special (and you’ll know him as Uncle Owen in the Star Wars prequels) continues to show his range and acting skill. And Noomi Rapace delivers one of the best villains this year as a perfectly cast evil and nasty Bright.
The film was directed by David Ayer (End of Watch, The Fast and the Furious, Fury, Training Day, Suicide Squad) and written by Max Landis (Victor Frankenstein, Dirk Gently, and next year’s An American Werewolf in London).
If you like Will Smith movies, high fantasy, mash-ups, and buddy cop movies, this may be for you. Bright is streaming now, only on Netflix.