Netflix raises the streaming stakes with the release of the $90 million dollar actioner, Bright. Directed by David Ayer (Suicide Squad,Fury) and starring Will Smith, Bright is a high concept flick that combines multiple genres. It's a gritty, ultra-violent cop drama mixed with fantasy elements. The film is set in present day Los Angeles, but in a world where humans, orcs, and elves coexist. Bright transposes the racial and economic strife between races to species. Orcs are a subjugated working class, elves have the money, while humans are caught in between. Let's not forget faeries, which are relegated to annoying house pests. It's a fascinating premise that plays out with far less intrigue.
Will Smith plays veteran LAPD beat cop, Lieutenant Daryl Ward. He's counting down the days to his pension when the top brass assign Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), the first orc police officer, as his partner. The pair gets off to a miserable start. Ward doesn't trust Jakoby, who's despised by the other cops and considered a sellout by the orcs. A routine call into a gang filled neighborhood leads to a wild shootout and startling discovery. They find an imprisoned elf (Lucy Fry) with a supernatural device of immeasurable power, a magic wand. Ward and Jakoby must lead her to safety while under constant attack. Their primary adversary (Noomi Rapace) being far deadlier and more powerful then imagined.
Bright works because of the dynamics between Will Smith and Joel Edgerton. They sell the friction that pervades their society's class structure. Some scenes are quite funny with Ward reacting to Jakoby's observations of human behavior. They are not buddy cops from the go. Their relationship is born under duress and gradually strengthened by conflict. This is the basic pillar of Bright. It holds up the film as the action scenes and carnage blur.
The screenplay by Max Landis is clever overall, but sticks to convention once the bullets start flying. There's a lot of creativity in the set up. No spoilers here, but the back story to this universe is extensive. Landis had an opportunity to dig deeper into the divisive issues. The script glosses over the drama because Bright is an action film foremost. It is wall to wall with the bloody brutality of Ayer's previous work. If you've seen End of Watch and Street Kings, then you now how vicious Ayer's gets. Bright is loaded with cursing, fighting, nudity, and gunplay. These are the selling points, not racial or species reconciliation.
David Ayer's doesn't stray far from his wheelhouse, even with the fantasy aspects. Bright can be genuinely summed up as End of Watch with magical creatures. That's not a negative. Audiences like violent cop films, and that's exactly what we have here. It was good to see Will Smith play a character with a harder edge. He shredded bad guys in Ayer's Suicide Squad, but that was cartoonish and cheesy. Bright is soaked in blood and guts.
Netflix is certainly voracious in acquiring content. It's a game changer for a streaming service to shell out for a film of Bright's budget and star power. The competition with the multiplex for eyeballs has shifted into a different gear. I would not be surprised to see further adventures in the Bright universe on Netflix. There is fertile ground for potential sequels and spin-offs.