Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: David Ayer
CINEMTATOGRAPHY: Roman Vasyanov
WRITER: Max Landis
MUSIC: David Sardy
I was going to go see and review “Downsizing” today, but I wanted to take a look at a Netflix original film that a couple of my friends recommended. I’ll get to “Downsizing” later in the week. For now, I’m going to take a look at “Bright”, a film from director David Ayer and screenwriter Max Landis.
Even though my friends had also hinted that other critics were hating on this film, I was honestly surprised to see that it had a 30% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Now, I’ll also go ahead and say that I’m not really the biggest fan of Ayer’s past films and I think that Landis is probably the most overvalued screenwriter in Hollywood. That said, I completely disagree with the other critics on this one.
I have not yet gone deeper and read any other critic’s review of the film, but if I had to guess as to what they didn’t like, it is the fact that Ayer does choose style over substance here. The movie starts off as a weird blend of fantasy along with elements of a modern-day gritty cop drama. The movie also sets up a social commentary about class, but Ayer abandons this commentary for the most part with a thrilling chase film that takes center stage.
Now, I could be mad that this film had an opportunity to contain more of a message, but the truth is that I just had too much damn fun to be upset. “Bright” is set in modern day Los Angeles, but it is an alternate world where orcs, elves and other fantasy creatures co-exist with the humans. The orcs are the minorities of the film and they make up most of the lower class and the gangs of LA and they have to put up with harassment from everyone.
Elves live the high-life and definitely make up the rich upper class. Humans fall somewhere in between by representing the middle-class. They hate the elves and their high society crap, but they also don’t have too many kind things to say about orcs either. Will Smith plays Officer Daryl Ward and he is stuck with being partnered up with Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), the first Orc to become a cop.
Eventually, Ward and Jakoby stumble upon a dark plot involving a wand and a young elf named Tikka (Lucy Fry). She is trying to escape from the Inferni, a dark society hellbent on bringing back a Dark Lord that was destroyed thousands of years ago. Tikka is also a Bright, which is a person who is able to wield a magic wand without it destroying her.
Once Ward and Jakoby find Tikka and the wand, the chase begins as every cop, gang member and federal agent comes after them with their own motives. The chase is never ending and the action scenes are pretty badass. There is a binding spell on the wand, so Ward and Jackoby can only go so far from the wand’s owner and leader of the Inferni, Leilah (Noomi Rapace).
There are several well choreographed shootouts and hand-to-hand combat scenes. From a crazy shootout at a nightclub to a thrilling fight in a convenience store, I say again that you won’t be let down in this department. Still, despite the amazing action sequences and the unique setting, this film doesn’t work if there is one other element that doesn’t work.
Smith and Edgerton are great as the seasoned, jaded veteran and the idealistic recruit, respectfully. Wade has been living with the filth of LA for far too long, so he has little hope for those he’s still trying to protect and he definitely doesn’t see himself as a hero. He also starts off hating his new partner simply because Jakoby is an orc.
Edgerton manages to give quite a performance despite being in heavy makeup. He hides his insecurities about who he is and what he wants to be while also trying to just be a good cop despite everyone hating him. Despite their differences, though, Wade and Jakoby also turn out to make a good team with Jakoby being the heart of the film and Smith being a more vulnerable hero than we are used to seeing from the actor.
Yes, the film is not perfect as the filmmakers try to take a moment and figure out what kind of tone they want the film to have. Once the film finds its footing, though, it is quite a fun thrill ride that is definitely worth taking.