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Review: Bright

Acting as Netflix’s first original blockbuster, Bright has a lot of pressure on its plate. Judging by current reviews however (currently around 29% on Rotten Tomatoes), I’m sure Netflix has been disappointed with the results. Personally though, I enjoyed Bright, an oddball, but absorbing fantasy crime story.

Bright is set in a world where mystical creatures live side-by-side with humans. We follow Daryl Ward (Will Smith), a human cop who is forced to work with the first ever Orc cop (Joel Edgerton). The two must stop a dastardly plot to get a magic wand in the wrong hands.

Bright is a fascinating beast of a film, with its combination of gritty crime filmmaking with a fantasy concept likely to be scoffed by many critics and audiences. However, I appreciate screenwriters Max Landis’ inventive idea, creating an effective (albeit overbearing) allegory about racism in the modern world. As far as developing the mythos, Landis has some fun and inventive ideas that do a nice job of building this world and creating a lived-in place. Landis’ writing is able to take the storyline seriously while still adding some fun one-liners along the way.

David Ayer was heavily criticized for his efforts with the floundering superhero flick Suicide Squad, but I think he redeems himself here. Ayer shoots Bright similarly to the other cop films he has directed, with his gritty lighting and intense camerawork setting the mood. At the same time, Ayer throws in some fun stylistic touches (especially during the more magic-oriented sequences) that are a lot of fun. He enhances the material and his frenetic pace makes the 2 hour running time flyby.

Stars Will Smith and Joel Edgerton do fairly well with this material. This is certainly Will Smith in his comfort zone, getting to play a smooth and badass cop like he did in Bad Boys. He’s charismatic as ever and much of the film’s humor comes from his great deadpan delivery on one-liners. Joel Edgerton may be over-qualified as the sidekick orc, but he is solid as well and has great chemistry with Smith. Noomi Rapace, Edgar Ramirez, and Lucy Fry are also good in their respective roles.

Landis’ script builds an interesting world, but struggles in the story department. The magic-oriented dynamics of the story are overcomplicated and generally uninteresting, introducing far too many dumb terms that frankly don’t matter. The story itself hits the beats that you expect, and I would also say Landis’ dialogue is rather hit or miss. For every zinger there is a line that made me groan.

Much of Bright could be described as hit-or-miss, with most aspects of the film having their fair share of imperfections. The social message of Landis script is good, but the film overplays it any chance it gets. The action is stylish and dynamic, but the second-half can get too action-heavy for its own good.

That being said, I enjoyed Bright for what it was, a interesting cop-fantasy noir that is brought to life with style and solid performances. By the end of the film, I was interested to see this supposed Bright sequel that Netflix has planned.

Grade: B-

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