BRIGHT Review: 3 out of 10 (No Magic. Just Mundane)
BRIGHT is the latest attempt by Netflix to enter the big budget blockbuster foray. Like previous contracts with the infamous Adam Sandler's multi picture deal, Netflix is banking on the idea that the star power of Will Smith will draw viewers in to watch this film as casual viewers. Have it playing in the background while you peruse your Facebook or Instagram feed or watch it while you play with your cat. Perhaps you can even start it today and finish it tomorrow. The casual approach to seeing a film on Netflix versus seeing it in the theater is both a blessing and a curse. It robs a film (many times) of your complete attention but also allows someone to consume a movie at their leisure. It is this consumption model that Netflix is banking on. The idea that you will lower your standards because of Will Smith and easy access.
Don't do it.
Or maybe I should say: Try it and realize you shouldn't have. Even with your own casual time at home, this movie isn't worth playing in the background. Even for fans of fantasy genre who might see this as something new and exciting, it fails to offer any exposition or mythos to its scenario. BRIGHT is a wasted effort on all sides.
BRIGHT is directed by David Ayer and written by Max Landis. The film stars Will Smith as a LAPD police officer who teams up with an Orc rookie police officer (Joel Edgerton) in an alternate present where humans and fantasy creatures—Orcs, Fairies, Elves, Centaurs, Dwarves etc.--all of the fantasy creatures are present and accounted for, including a random dragon flying over L.A. (Seems dragons would go for a more rural habitat but who knows...maybe there are urban dragons.) In this world it seems that all these creatures, races, and types have co-existed since the beginning of time, though there is absolutely zero exposition to offer any setting to the world they inhabit. Instead, BRIGHT drops us directly into a narrative where human LAPD officer Daryl Ward (Will Smith) and Orc rookie officer Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton) embark on a routine patrol night. The two already have issues with each other and Jakoby has already failed in backing up his partner, causing him to be shot in the line of duty. However, rather than put the officer on leave or behind a desk, he is right back on the street and paired with the same partner. There are plenty of other narrative glitches like this to be found (like how Internal Affairs officers know about a guy's mortgage) but chalk it up to Max Landis for having a loosely written screenplay. This one night on patrol turns out to be a really really long night. The partners discover an ancient artifact: a magic wand, that was thought to be destroyed. Along with this wand comes a really shorthand explanation of good elves and bad elves, an Ancient Circle of protectors, Latino street gangs, an unnamed dark lord, magic, stories of a prophecy, and of course "The Chosen One." But all of that is just a thin veneer to what is really a generic buddy cop film where the two have *an object* that everyone wants and are on the run all night and can't trust anyone. In the midst of it they are charged with protecting a mysterious silent elf who could help them but offers none of the answers or aid until the third act of the film--despite the fact that the information she has might have really been helpful thirty minutes earlier in the film.
It is a tired generic device that has been done time and time again--even by this director. HARSH TIMES, STREET KINGS, END OF WATCH, and SABOTAGE are all just versions of the same movie. BRIGHT is cut from the same cloth. What is disappointing is that it has a larger budget than *all* of those films combined but never becomes anything better. Actually, it is less than any of those aforementioned films of Ayer's because this film *attempts* to offer a fantasy element but never does enough world building to commit to its promise. It isn't that the premise isn't interesting--a SHADOWRUN type film might have been a fantastic project, but Ayer goes back to what he knows and ends up making a fairly generic cop thriller. I could speculate that the money went to Will Smith, but if so it doesn't appear in his performance. Smith is lackluster here and offers even less to his character than he did in Ayer's most recent project-- SUICIDE SQUAD. In the end, the police partners face opposition, bond, make sacrifices, and go through the rest of the hoops that every other buddy cop movie offers. Add in a bit of low rent special effects, a subplot about magic that is never fleshed out, and some makeup with elf and orc characters. Don't waste screen time on BRIGHT-- a film that wastes an opportunity to do something interesting and instead offers something mundane.