Review: Bright

All hysteria aside, this $90m Netflix production is a train wreck of illogical, profane, racist tosh that cements David Ayer as a voyeur of pervasive violence, unwarranted toxic masculinity and gun worship. Bright is anything but.

There’s yet another silly conspiracy theory built around the critical hammering of Bright that asserts it’s a plot by big screen studios to defame Netflix productions and stop projects going to the small screen. Don’t buy into it, 5 minutes into this very expensive, excessively tacky looking film you’ll rest assured that, no, it’s just plain bad.

Written by Max Landis, the 32 year old perpetual teenager behind such films as Chronicle, American Ultra, and Mr. Right, Bright sees us in an alternate present day L.A. inhabited by Humans, Orcs (replacing Latin American crime gangs), and Elves (replacing the designer suit ultra rich). We meet the frazzled Ward (Will Smith), a human LAPD officer returning to work after 5 years in recovery from being shot on the job by an Orc. His reluctance to return is exacerbated by the presence of his Orc partner Jackoby’s (Joel Edgerton) enthusiasm to work with him again. Dealing with a squad of xenophobic partners who detest Jackoby, Ward is soon forced into a position of choosing between his partner, a group of revenge seeking officers and the murmur of a mystical weapon that could shift the balance of power between the three communities.

Sounds like a beast of a plot, right? Well, you’d have hoped but sadly any sense of depth or exploration is subjugated for pervasive ‘cop talk’, insult slinging matches, and random explosions of gun violence. The Orcs are nothing more than obvious metaphors for crime gangs and, whilst director David Ayer tries to mimic the far superior 1988 Graham Baker film Alien Nation, he simply doesn’t have the dramatic chops to pull it off. If Ward isn’t slagging off Jackoby in a tirade of verbal abuse and racial slurs, he’s cloyingly being the reluctant cop hero cliche. Jackoby is a character that is as incoherent as he/it is boring. Played in turn as the comic relief and the fallible heart of the film, neither Ayer, Landis or the usually good Edgerton can manage to define the character at all.

Will Smith turns in the most tired performance of his career, he flails and falters through Bright, falling back on his Bad Boys schtick of hyperstylised posturing and spouting off verbal diahrrea – all of which has little to no resonance to anything in play. Noomi Rapace is totally wasted as the suggested big bad Leilah (she’s only in it for about 10 minutes), as is Edgar Ramirez as a high society Elf with an undefined interest in the machinations at play.

Falling back on his End of Watch/Sabotage/Harsh Times days, Ayer opts out of any real story investment and just jams the film with wall to wall profanity and violence. That would be fine if there was substance running underneath yet the direction defiantly avoids any form of mythology or character development. So it all adds up to a lazy and nihilistic affair.

Tacky, ugly and overrun with cheap shots, Bright is a lowlight of the filmic year with the only potential upside (?) being it’ll pretty much force Will Smith to fast track Bad Boys 3 to get back in favour. Harsh? Maybe, but Bright is as unforgivable as I am unforgiving.

✭1/2

BRIGHT is streaming on NETFLIX NOW!