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Review: "Bright" on Netflix

by Ben Miller

Will Smith misses the good ole days.  He has been trying to reclaim his blockbuster status since 2008’s Hancock.  In between, Smith has been featured in a string of weird melodramatic dramas (Seven Pounds, Collateral Beauty), traditional action genre vehicles (Men in Black 3, After Earth, Suicide Squad) and films that sink or swim on the charisma of the stars (Focus, Concussion).  None of these have worked.

Reuniting with Suicide Squad director David Ayer, Smith tries to make it work again in action/sci-fi with Netflix’s Bright.  This also doesn’t really work...

Set in an alternative Los Angeles where mystical creatures live alongside humans, the LAPD is newly integrated with Orcs.  Joel Edgerton (who I am not convinced is actually the actor underneath all that makeup) co-stars as the first Orc cop who joins Smith on his beat.  That’s the gist of what you need to know to get started.  

Ayer and screenwriter Max Landis both try their best to make things work.  The film opens with an innovative graffiti sequence that tries to lay out the world.  What I’m sure they were trying for was a sci-fi Los Angeles equivalent of the hitman heavy John Wick New York City.  After a while, it gets dizzying.  Orcs, fairies, elves, magic wands, the Dark Lord… it’s all too much.

It also feels like a missed opportunity.  Somewhere in the depths of this world, there is an infinitely more interesting movie about integration, prejudice, class and job status.  Instead, magic shows up and the motions go like you would expect.

When the action starts (around the 30 minute mark), it doesn’t let up.  Unfortunately, the tension of constant life and death situations fail to materialize.  When you reach the sixth gunfight, it's exhausting.  This is what would happen if you had a dimly lit Transformers movie with f-words, buckets of blood and every actor taking everything way too seriously.

Smith does his usual routine of cocksure badass with integrity to spare.  1997 Will Smith fits this role like a glove.  2017 Will Smith playing this role feels like an aging rockstar copying his old hits hoping for another shot at glory.  Here’s hoping he spreads his wings in the near future and flies outside of comfort zone.  Edgerton gets the more complex role, but emoting is difficult under layers of prosthetics; he does what he can with what he has.

You have a few other familiar faces pop in, as well.  Margaret Cho has a completely thankless role as a police sergeant, Lucy Fry and Noomi Rapace show up for some magic elf plot building, and Jay Hernandez plays a sheriff who announces he is expecting his fifth child (I’ll let you guess what happens to his character).  

My favorite supporting character was Edgar Ramirez’s elf FBI agent.  I have no clue what he is doing in this movie.  I guarantee they hired him before the script was done, gave him some white hair, cool contacts and sent him on his way.  They probably kept meaning to give him something substantial to do but forgot.  He does nothing more than walk around, talk on the phone a bit, and walk around some more.  He doesn’t even break into a light jog at any point.  It’s incredible.

Bright is not the worst film of the year as some critics have posited.  If you go in expecting mindless entertainment, you might enjoy yourself a bit.  This is no Battlefield Earth, but it’s also no Men in Black.  It lands somewhere in the middle.  Think Salt with far less charisma.

Final Grade: C-
Oscar Chances: Personally, I love Bastille’s “World Gone Mad,” the lead single for the film.  It is included in the eligible Original Songs, but that's a longshot at best.  Realistically, a nod for Makeup and Hairstyling is the only thing to bet on. Makeup designer Alessandro Bertolazzi won himself an Oscar for Suicide Squad last year and Bright is one of this season's finalists.

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Reader Comments (2)

Aww, I like Salt. (Who is Salt? Angelina Jolie *is* Salt.)

This sounds like a shit-show, road-show, hackneyed version of Alien Nation, so why not just watch that again?

December 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

David Ayer is definitely one of the most overrated filmmakers working today. Everyone seems to think this guy has what it takes to make great movies but that proves to be false. Plus, he really fucked up when he said "Fuck Marvel" and ended up getting bit in the ass.

Plus, Willie-Will needs to choose better projects and keep his no-talent kids in check.

December 23, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

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