- Movie Rating -

Bright (2017)

| December 31, 2017

No, no, no, no, no, no, no.  This will not do.

I’m sorry but no matter how you bend it, twist it, turn it, pull it or stretch it, the word ‘Orc’ just doesn’t work in a cop buddy movie.  The fact that Bright – Netflix’s first attempt at a massive big-budget theatrical-style fantasy – employs this word, say, 500 times in a 2 hour running time makes it all the more agonizing.  Here is a movie about the uneasy race relations between – get this – humans, Orcs, Elves and fairies co-existing in the bitter cold climate of something like Menace II Society.  The producers have the nerve to call this: “a contemporary cop thriller, but with fantastical elements.”  Right.  But what we get is a round of Dungeons and Dragons married to Training Day.  If that doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth, then the sight of a Centaur police officer probably will.

Even if, by some miracle, these elements could be fused into a workable script (which this is not), it wouldn’t matter anyway because director David Ayer works to make this an ugly, violent, foul-mouthed and ultimately mean-spirited experience no matter which genre it leans into.  There are many social pains to be exploited here, the worst is that it uses heady fantasy in order to parallel painfully real subjects like Black Lives Matter in order to achieve what turns out to be a standard reworking of the old cop-buddy action nonsense that leaves you constantly asking “How is this not ‘Alien Nation’?”

Alien Nation was, at least, mounted on a plausible future society that was forced to deal with aliens settling down and living among us.  Bright takes place, I guess, in an alternate universe where Orcs and Elves and co-existed among humans since, I guess, the dawn of time.  It’s not easy.  Orcs live in ghettos and are deeply distrusted.  They are put upon and victimized by the police and forced into second-class citizenship.  At this point, you can stop rolling your eyes.  I did enough of that for both of us.

Tacked into the center of this ridiculous dreck is Will Smith who, after last year’s abhorrent nonsense Collateral Beauty and the gag-worthy Concussion might do well to find a new agent.  His character, LAPD veteran cop Daryl Ward, is right off the shelf.  He’s frustrated by his job.  He is nursing an on-the-job injury.  He’s got volumes of personal issues.  Aaaand, of course, he hates his new partner.  That would be Jackoby (Joel Edgerton), the LAPD’s very first Orc police rookie who questions his place on the force because somehow it betrays his people and his culture to be wearing the uniform.  The movie doesn’t miss a beat in the old Police Movie Cliché book, up to and including our old friends Internal Affairs, who want Ward to spy on his new partner and get him to admit to some misconduct.

Apart from their mutual difficulties as officers, Ward and Jakoby have to deal with a massive threat coming from the Orc world; a magic wand (yes . . . magic wand) that can apparently do anything and is leaving all factions from cops to street gangs scrambling to possess it.  It can also cause a non-experienced user to, well, explode.  Caught in the fray are street thugs, corrupt cops, orcs, elves and, again, Internal Affairs.

Aside from the cop-buddy clichés that the movie has to work through, I was strugging to get my feet into the world that this movie is trying to establish.  Apparently, Human beings have lived their entire history with elves and fairies and Orcs and centaurs?  How does that work?  Are their elves and fairies and Orcs and centaurs in the Bible?  Were they involved in The American Revolution?  The Civil War?  World War II?  Has history been altered by their presence?  Are there dragons?  Leprechauns?  Minotaurs?  Gorgons?  There is a quick throw-away line that establishes that Shrek exists in this universe, but does World of Warcraft exist here as well?  Do the Orcs find it offensive?  Would they be the Orc equivalent of, say, Song of the South?  We never get the answers to this because those issues are side-stepped in favor of an ugly, mean-spirited police action movie that is taken with absolute dead seriousness.

How did anyone think that this was going to work?  This is an unendingly stupid movie.  I’m agogged that anyone, let alone Netflix, might have spent $90,000,000 to bring this ill-conceived project to any format.  I can understand the pay service’s desire to try new things.  They’ve done great things, creating a bumper crop of great episodic television series that are leaving the once-powerful networks of ABC, CBS and NBC racing to catch up.  But if they are going to take a stab at the box office, they’d better make better choices than this.

And speaking of better choices, how about the once-powerful Will Smith?  He is not doing his reputation any favors here even though it can be supposed that this was his attempt to prove that he could still command big-budget action picture.  Well, yes, he still has screen presence and I give him a lot of credit for his ability to stand in the middle of this halfwit nonsense and deliver a line like “Fairy lives don’t matter” and not give into the temptation to punch a wall.  I would understand, I really would.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2017) View IMDB Filed in: Sci-Fi/Fantasty