Even Orcish Joel Edgerton Can’t Save This Shit


Poorly structured, indifferently filmed and conceived of somewhere beyond the realm of stupidity, Bright can fuck right off. Not only is it a mess by basically every cinematic metric, it will also bore you to tears, which should be impossible for a movie so mired in absurdity. Please, don’t watch it.

Rating: 1/11


There’s an exchange fairly early on in Bright that defines the film perfectly. Before I tell you about it though, you need to know that Bright takes place in a fantasy land. Geographically, it’s recognisably Los Angeles, but its inhabitants include orcs, elves and fairies alongside humans. Also, it’s not a comedy. Got it? Ok. So, in this defining scene, grizzled veteran LA cop Daryl Ward (standard wisecracking Will Smith) is trying to get his orcish partner Nick Jakoby (a weirdly compelling Joel Edgerton) to confess to something. His method? Ward tells Jakoby an anecdote about how much better his young daughter feels when she owns up to something she’s done wrong, hoping that Jakoby will take the hint to do the same.

That’s his trick: a shallow, painfully obvious allegory foisted  upon a full-grown man… or orc, whatever the fuck. And that, insanely enough, is Bright in a nutshell. It wants to tell a story about race relations and police corruption in America with all the nuance and skill of a Clifford the Big Red Dog book. But despite having such a childish approach to its material – which, as fantasy, should inherent play well to kids – Bright also wants to be a hard boiled cop drama. There’s violence and “motherfuckers” aplenty, with some boobs and drugs thrown in just in case your 15-year-old nephew wasn’t sufficiently impressed. And, god-fuckin’-dammit, is it a draaag.

The plot, such as it is, involves Jakoby and Ward making amends as partners while winding up embroiled in the quest for a Magic Wand (don’t look at me like that; I didn’t write this fucking thing!). Anyway, Ward has recently returned to service after being shot by an orc, something he blames Jakoby for. Which, can I just say, never makes all that much sense to begin with, outside of Ward’s resentment towards orcs in general. But it’s necessary to fuel the conflict between them so that their relationship can face hurdles on the way to a genuine bond that no one will see coming, so whatever.

As they go about their first day back on the beat – which, again, I feel the need to mention has only ever once resulted in one of them getting shot in the past – chaos erupts all around them. They find a safehouse for some criminal organisation, meet the elf Tikka (Lucy Fry, barely registering) and locate a Magic Wand. There’s no layer to it beyond what you’re thinking: it grants wishes, which in the real world makes it exceedingly dangerous, but no one except a “Bright” can use one. Brights, by the way, are one in a million. If you aren’t one, you’ll explode when you touch the Wand. Now, this one’s for the cheap seats: I’ll give you one fuckin’ guess who turns out to be a Bright by the end.

Oh, also the Wand belongs to Leilah (a kinda creepy, kinda meh Noomi Rapace), an Inferni (evil elf) who wants to resurrect the Dark Lord (I… I got nothin’). But enough about the “story”. As per its racial messaging, Bright fosters the notion from the get-go that orcs are considered lesser beings in LA, and probably the world over. The police don’t like them, and when one becomes a cop he’s despised by the force and rejected by his community. That’s some truly Nobel Peace Prize calibre writing right there, but it goes even further. Orcs often appear together in gangs, decked out in gold chains and matching colours. They smoke blunts and drink 40s. Oh, and they’re incredibly ugly. Seriously, it would almost be offensive if it wasn’t so wildly incompetent.

Thing is, even if I were to ignore the way Bright tries and fails to comment on some pretty heavy shit, it still sucks arse on almost every other level. Once I realised the narrative atrocity I was in for, I sat back and accepted that at least I’d see some cool shit get blown up and bad guys get fucked up. That is until I remembered that director David Ayer was responsible for the combustible shitshow of Suicide Squad. In both cases, Ayer’s action sequences are perfunctory at best and frustratingly incomprehensible the rest of the time. Not to mention, there’s no logical sequencing to them. At one point, Ward, Jakoby and Tikka narrowly escape a street gang, change clothes to avoid detection, walk into a strip club and are immediately detected, so the shooting simply starts up again.

Wow, and the script?! Let’s set aside that writer Max Landis blatantly cribs a subplot about saving a gang-affiliated youth from Ayer’s own script for Training Day, and that Ayer lets him do it! Whole scenes of this movie boil down to characters shouting at each other, again and again and again, with no discernible cut-off point. It almost seems improvised in how clumsy and unfiltered it all is. There’s a scene where one character pulls out his phone and starts calling someone, and I swear to God it’s like a solid minute of Will Smith yelling at him to listen to him, to put down his phone, to not call that person, to give him the phone. This in a movie that runs at least, mmmm, two hours too long.

Look, I’ll say this much: Joel Edgerton is a national treasure, and he does his best with what he’s given. His orc Jakoby is… not sympathetic, but almost worth paying attention to. He has good chemistry with Smith, who for his part doesn’t completely phone it in, and both have very occasional exchanges that might make you smile. What I’m saying is, if you don’t already have Netflix, please don’t make this your reason for subscribing. You’d find more cinematic value over at PornHub.

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