2017, 2018, Action Movies, Bad Situations, Buddy Movies, Cop Movies, Cops Gone Bad, Dark Fantasy, Elves, Fantasy, Fantasy Films, Little People, LL Soares Reviews, Magic, Monster Movies, Monsters, Murder!, Netflix Movies, Will Smith movies 0
Review by LL Soares
I like Orcs. I’m not a big fan of the LORD OF THE RINGS movies, but I think Orcs are pretty cool. Which reminds me that I should probably see Duncan Jones’ WARCRAFT (2016) movie at some point (even though I heard mostly negative things about it, I probably should find out for myself).
BRIGHT (2017), however, is a 2017 movie made by Netflix, and it’s a milestone because it’s their biggest budgeted original movie yet. It stars Will Smith (SUICIDE SQUAD, 2016, I AM LEGEND, 2007, and the MEN IN BLACK movies, to name just a few) as police officer Daryl Ward, and Joel Edgerton (THE GIFT and BLACK MASS, both 2015, and IT COMES AT NIGHT, 2017) as his Orc partner, Nick Jakoby. One day, Nick is getting a burrito at a stand for Daryl, when a criminal Orc comes out of a convenience store he just robbed and shoots Daryl. Nick pursues his fellow Orc, but the bad guy gets away. There are rumors that Nick let him get away, because Orcs supposedly always protect each other. Nick vehemently denies this.
Daryl doesn’t know what to believe, but months later, when he recovers from the gunshot wounds, he returns to work and is once again partnered with Nick. The first thing Daryl needs is to be able to trust his partner again. And Nick is eager to prove himself.
Into this uncomfortable situation comes a search for a stolen magic wand.
The world of BRIGHT supposes that the events of THE LORD OF THE RINGS were real history, and that, since then, magical beings like Orcs and elves have been assimilated into our society. The elves are adept at magic and make up most of the Top 1% of the economy. Most of them are rich, and they live to shop for expensive things. Orcs, who had turned against mankind way back when the old wars occurred, are reduced to the most menial of jobs. They’re the new lowest class. The fact that Nick is allowed to become a cop at all is a big deal, done in the name of diversity and Police Department PR. But no one on the force wants to work with an Orc partner. And, to be honest, Daryl doesn’t want to, either, but he isn’t given a choice.
Back to that magic wand. It’s illegal. As one character describes it, it’s the “magical equivalent of a nuclear weapon.” It can make all your dreams come true, except, it’s meant for just a very elite class, called brights (hence the title). Not even all elves are brights. Brights have the distinction of being able to hold a magic wand with their bare hand and not explode into a thousand pieces. Anyone who’s not a bright better be really careful trying to handle it, because it’s like handling dynamite. Literally.
Which doesn’t stop everyone in the movie from wanting to get the wand and use it for their own desires. When Daryl has to shoot some crooked cops who want the wand, in self-defense, he becomes a hunted man. Nick, refusing to turn his back on his partner and determined to stay loyal to the end, becomes wanted, too.
But the thing is, it’s not just the cops who are chasing them. There are also local (human) gang-bangers who have heard about the wand and want it. And then there’s the wand’s owner, an elf named Leilah (Noomi Rapace, also Lisbeth Salander in the original THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, 2009, as well as being in SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS, 2011, and PROMETHEUS, 2012), who will do anything to get it back. The thief who took it from her, Tikka (Lucy Fry, who played Eve Thorogood in last year’s WOLF CREEK TV series, which is worth checking out; she was also in MR. CHURCH, 2016, and VAMPIRE ACADEMY, 2014) is also an elf, and a bright, and she stole it to prevent Leilah from awakening “The Dark Lord,” which I assume is supposed to be a Sauron-like figure from ancient past. So, everyone is after Daryl, Nick, and Tikka (who they try to protect), and the magic wand. And just about everyone chasing them is capable of murder to get what they want, because they see the wand as something worth killing for.
Meanwhile, there’s a high-level FBI agent (and elf) named Kandomere (Edgar Ramirez, also in the 2015 remake of POINT BREAK and in GOLD, 2016), who is also tracking them down, with his partner, a human named Montehugh (Happy Anderson, from the series THE KNICK, 2014 – 2015, QUARRY, 2016, and currently on the Netflix series MINDHUNTER). There’s one other cop who Daryl still trusts, named Rodriguez (Jay Hernandez, HOSTEL, 2005, and Diablo in SUICIDE SQUAD), and there’s another violent gang, this time made up of Orcs, called the Fogteeth, who get involved, intent on making a lesson out of Nick, who they consider a traitor for working on the human police force.
So, for most of its running time, BRIGHT is an action film, involving a long chase through the city. But it works. Will Smith, an actor I’ve never been overly fond of, is good as Daryl (he was also one of the few highlights as Deadshot in last year’s SUICIDE SQUAD, so this is twice in a row I’ve liked him), and I like Joel Edgerton a lot, and he’s good as Nick. And I liked the interaction between the two partners, as they slowly learn to trust each other implicitly. I found the mash-up for police procedural and fantasy elements to work pretty well, and it’s interesting how the elves and the Orcs fit in the new class system with humans.
It’s directed by David Ayer who also directed END OF WATCH and FURY (both 2014), and SUICIDE SQUAD. He also wrote TRAINING DAY (2001), but the script this time is by Max Landis, who also wrote AMERICAN ULTRA and VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN (both 2015).
Since it was released on Netflix on December 22nd, BRIGHT has mostly gotten mixed or negative reviews, with a lot of critics feeling the police and fantasy elements don’t jell very well, but I disagree. Also, it seems like a lot of people thought the allegory about race relations was a little shallow. But this movie isn’t trying to be DETROIT (2017). It reminded me more of the movie ALIEN NATION (1988, and then it became a TV series in ’89), where aliens crash land on Earth and assimilate into society, and it focused on an alien who joins the police force. In that movie (and series) there was a class structure among the aliens as well. In BRIGHT, it’s a similar concept, but it’s fantasy-based instead of science fiction.
For what it is, I think BRIGHT works and I enjoyed watching it. If you’re a fan of Tolkein, or you think this kind of thing sounds good to you, then you should check it out, too. I’ve heard talk of a possible sequel, and to be honest, I’d be interested in returning to the world of BRIGHT. I give it three knives out of five.
© Copyright 2018 by LL Soares
LL Soares gives BRIGHT ~ three knives.