Suicide Squad director David Ayer reunites with Will Smith to bring at-home audiences Bright, a Netflix Original action movie that blends “cop drama” and “buddy comedy” but exists in a fantasy amongst the mystical company of fairies and orcs.
Officer Daryl Ward (Smith) and Officer Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton, under impressive make-up) are a controversial pairing as they patrol the streets of Los Angeles, California. Jakoby, the only orc on the police force, receives harsh criticism from his colleagues and glares from the Californian community. His loyalty to the squad is always questioned as others (including Officer Ward) assume protecting orcs takes more of a priority. This is one of the many obvious symbolic parallels screenwriter Max Landis draws to real-life prejudice experienced by minorities. Landis (Chronicle, American Ultra, Mr. Right) has the ability to be clever, but subtlety isn’t his strong suit. Bright’s script would be less heavy-handed if Landis took a physical copy and slammed it over your head.
As an action veteran, filmmaker Ayer sticks to what he know. He presents a formulaic action film that abides by expected tropes, conflicts, and banter as characters race towards a magical MacGuffin that controls the plot. As one of the few who enjoyed and defended last year’s Suicide Squad, Ayer’s “recipe for success” can work for me even if it isn’t entirely original. However, he’s missing one key factor in Bright: personality.
Ayer submits to a common mistake carried out by high-concept genre-bending. Instead of building interesting characters with his cast, he lets the visuals do all of the talking. Sometimes he gets lucky, such as with the amazing make-up applied to Edgerton and the rest of the supporting orc cast. But mostly, he depends on overflowing special effects, graphic violence, and gratuitous frightening creatures. For Netflix, these elements are supposed to serve as achievements for their first foray into big-budget blockbusters, but Ayer uses these devices to clutter his chaos; making Bright too convoluted to follow and too senseless to invest in.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie