Film Review: Bright

Cops and orcs battle evil elves in an alternate Los Angeles that looks a lot like 'Training Day.'
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A perfectly respectable B-movie dressed up like an "important" message drama, Bright marks Netflix's latest attempt to dominate the entertainment industry. Based on a script by Max Landis (Victor Frankenstein) and directed by Suicide Squad's David Ayer, Bright mashes together several middling-to-okay movies, adds a Blade Runner veneer of smoky darkness, and gives Will Smith another shot at resurrecting his career.

Bright takes place in an alternate Los Angeles where orcs, elves and fairies co-exist with humans still prone to all their racist prejudices. Elves rule, humans struggle to get by, and orcs are like a new species of MS-13—all-purpose movie villains with tusks, hoodies and death-metal music. Like Training Day, which Ayer wrote, Bright has a Latino gang as well, led by the wheelchair-bound Poison (Enrique Murciano).

Smith is Daryl Ward, a decent L.A. cop who can't get ahead. For diversity reasons he's been partnered with Nick Jakoby (an unrecognizable Joel Edgerton), the department's first orc. Just like Zootopia, Bright uses Jakoby to explore racism. (Sort of.)

So did 1988's Alien Nation, along with Training Day the most obvious influence on Bright. Jakoby even looks like Mandy Patinkin's character in that movie, and undergoes a similar sacrifice to prove that orcs are just as loyal and emotional as humans. Again, sort of.

Realizing that instead of actually having to sit through Bright, viewers could turn to any of the titles above, the filmmakers add on a framing story about elves summoning a Dark Lord with magic wands. In narrative terms this means Hong Kong-style throwdowns where elf killer Leilah (Noomi Rapace) and her gang massacre waves of extras in nightclubs and convenience stores in search of a wand stolen by rebel elf Tikka (Lucy Fry).

When Ward and Jakoby rescue Tikka from some kind of rebel arsenal abattoir, they find themselves the targets of elves, Poison's gang, angry orcs who consider Jakoby a traitor to their species, angry cops who consider Ward a traitor to their species, and Kandomere (Édgar Ramírez), an FBI elf.

This sounds more interesting than the movie itself, which is mostly off-color insults from Ward to Jakoby as bullets fly by and fire bombs detonate. Ayer throws in a pretty good car chase, but otherwise action is dark, murky and uninvolving. Also deeply derivative.

Smith can play a role like Ward in his sleep (cf. Suicide Squad), which may be why his cop never generates much sympathy. At least Edgerton's fans won't be able to recognize him. Fitted out with goat's-eye contact lenses and Spock ears, poor Rapace and Ramírez look distinctly uncomfortable.

They should be, because Bright is as close to pointless as a sci-fi action-adventure fantasy parable about racism with an expensive cast and ersatz runic undertones can get.

Click here for cast and crew information.