UK Release: 22/12/2017
Directed by: David Ayer
Starring: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry
Ever wondered how a buddy-cop fantasy movie would work?
Well apparently, you’re not the only one, as Netflix releases Bright – the new buddy-cop fantasy starring Will Smith as human cop, Daryl Ward who ends up reluctantly partnered with the newest cop on the beat – the world’s first orcish police officer, Nick Jakoby (played by Joel Edgerton). Obviously, they don’t exactly see eye-to-eye, with the orc community often seen as traitors after their ancestors pledged allegiance to a Dark Lord thousands of years ago… but Officer Jakoby is out to prove his detractors wrong. And a world-weary Will Smith wants nothing more than to go home to his family.
Obviously, it’s not going to be as simple as that…
It’s obvious from the outset that Bright is a high concept affair.
It’s not your usual buddy-cop movie, instead mashing up the two genres to create something truly unique. You certainly have to hand it to Netflix for going all in on this one – with a huge $100 million budget, the studio has essentially thrown money at an original concept, rather than playing it safe with an established franchise or remake.
And for Netflix’s first big-budget movie, that’s pretty amazing.
What’s also pretty amazing is that it actually works a lot better than it sounds.
Back when Bright was first announced, I couldn’t imagine a cheesier concept. I mean, come on – myth and magic mashed up with an urban cop movie? It’s only saving grace was director David Ayer – already known for the rather excellent buddy cop flick, End of Watch. That was just enough to make me wait and see what Bright was all about. And I’m very glad I did.
Bright is definitely the kind of film you won’t have seen before.
And in my opinion, that’s a great thing.
The urban setting is incredibly familiar, especially when you look back at other recent buddy-cop films. But the addition of magic and fantasy creatures makes things very, very different. It isn’t just a random smattering of mystical creatures, either. The orcs are the disenfranchised race, forming gangs across Los Angeles. The elves have developed alongside humanity as the higher class of people – essentially controlling the way the world works from their glittering citadels, which in this world are glitzy, high-rise skyscrapers. It’s a very weird blend of the familiar and completely different that makes Bright so special. It’s familiar enough that we can relate to the street-level goings on when Ward and Jakoby head out on their beat. But it’s different enough that when the main plot kicks in, we’re thrust into a world of thoroughly modern magic and mayhem.
Essentially, the film is all about a magic wand.
In this world, wands are extremely powerful artefacts which grant their user the ability to do pretty much anything. Make themselves taller, shorter, the richest person in the world… it’s a ticket to live out your wildest fantasies. And when a wand turns up at crime scene, it doesn’t take long for Ward and Jakoby to realise that the police department they know and love is full of corrupt cops who will do literally anything to get their hands on that wand.
And that includes murdering their fellow officers.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that, with a group of rogue elves hell-bent on bringing the return of the Dark Lord and an almost-religious sect known as the Shield of Light who are devoted to stopping them.
But it’s not really as interesting as it sounds.
At least, on the outset.
The plot has just enough to keep ticking along, but it’s generally a by-the-numbers affair, and it doesn’t really push the boundaries in any way. Any other film might feel punished by this, but the real guts of the film comes from the relationship between Ward and Jakoby… and that is where Bright really shines.
Both Will Smith and Joel Edgerton knock out stellar performances. Will Smith’s weary cop is all too familiar, albeit not usually played by Will Smith. But his interactions with Jakoby really play up the division between humans and orcs… and that tension regularly pushes the relationship between the two officers. Joel Edgerton is a delight as Officer Jakoby, managing to bring a sense of subtlety to a character who is often thought of by his colleagues as another knuckle-dragging orc. Instead, he has a lot of insight and his own internal struggles – he never managed to integrate into the orc community, so he’s an outsider everywhere he goes… and that makes him infinitely interesting. Now, take that complicated orc and throw him into a life and death situation where the fate of the world hangs in the balance, and it becomes clear that Bright is more than the sum of its parts.
Essentially, Bright is far more interesting than it seems at first glance.
And it says a lot more than you might realise.
It’s got plenty of action and adventure, with some stellar performances from the likes of Noomi Rapace and Lucy Fry. And while there’s a bit of a dip in the final act, I can’t help thinking there are plenty of other stories in the Bright universe that would make an excellent sequel. Bright is a good, solid cop movie, with a fantasy twist that won’t exactly keep you scratching your head, but will keep you asking questions about this rich, incredibly intriguing world.
Bright stars Will Smith and Joel Edgerton, as well as Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry, Edgar Ramirez, Margaret Cho, and Ike Barinholtz.
David Ayer directed the movie, based on a script by Max Landis.
Bright heads to Netflix on 22 December 2017.