With the largest ever Netflix budget to date, at $90 million, and a sequel signed before the release of this film, Bright has a lot riding on its shoulders.
We are in a world of fairies, orcs, elves and humans, all living, not so harmoniously, side-by-side. The fairies are seen as pests, the elves are the ‘haves’, living it up in lavish luxury, whilst the orcs are the gangsters and hoodlums on the streets, with humans…well, that’s not made clear.
During a call to a building the pair stumble across an elf called Tikka, Lucy Fry (The Darkness, Wolf Creek (TV)) with a magic wand. To have a magic wand means you can do, and have, anything. That is, providing you are a Bright, the only ones able to touch a magic wand without exploding violently into dust.
When Smith learns of a setup that’s about to go down involving him, his partner and some bent coppers who want the wand, he is forced into drastic action and the trio end up on the run.
The original owner of the wand, a rather wasted Noomi Rapace (What Happened To Monday, Unlocked), chases the trio with her two kick-ass accomplices.
They’re joined in the chase by the police force, a bunch of orcs, the magic police headed by Edgar Ramirez (Gold, The Girl On The Train) and Happy Anderson (Mindhunter (TV), Quarry (TV)) and some human gangsters led by wheelchair-bound Enrique Murciano (Without A Trace (TV), Black Hawk Down).
Lots of gun battles, martial arts (from the elves) and a bit of magic later, and we’re back right were we started at the original building for the finale.
Bright is big, loud and ambitious. The premise of Bright reminded me greatly of the James Caan starring Alien Nation from 1988. However, the addition of magic, elves and orcs means we’re into a whole new world.
You could easily look at Bright as Landis attempting to say something about the state of the world now: transient people, persecuted people, whole races holding grudges for things that happened hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago.
However, to do that would see Bright fall down at the first hurdle. It doesn’t have the detail to sustain that sort of meaty scrutiny, it lacks back story or explanation, only light touches here and there are applied to the social history of these people. Though it doesn’t take a lot to fill in the blanks.
It’s best to look at Bright for what it is; a buddy-cop, action movie set in an alternative universe. To do that means you’re able to enjoy it more than expecting it to make some grand statement.
This doesn’t mean it excels as a buddy-cop, action movie. As already mentioned, Noomi Rapace is wasted, reduced as she is to a few action sequences and even fewer lines, some of which are in elfish. Lucy Fry fares little better, spending most of her time whimpering or exclaiming ‘they’re coming’ at opportune moments.
Whilst it’s clear why people would want the wand and all it’s powers. It’s not clear what they expect to do with it once they have it given that only Bright’s can use it and you only know if you’re a Bright by picking up a wand. Whereby you either die in an explosion of dust or, hey, it’s your lucky day!
The laughs are funny when they land, but they land so sparsely across the two-hour run time that they can feel a little out of place at times. The movie lurching from serious End Of Watch to funny Bad Boys in an instant, and back again, gives a disjointed feeling.
The ending, which sees our heroes not take the opportunities to finish off the people who are trying to kill them when they have the chance, and the main ‘bad-guy’ proving next to impossible to kill, is Hollywood cliché-ness to the max.
That said, Bright isn’t all bad and I don’t think it deserves the initial pasting it’s had from some critics, but, it’s not great either. It’s just a fairly typical buddy-cop, actioner with Will Smith, that happens to have magic, orcs and fairies in it.