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By David “Quinny” Quinn
Streaming services like STAN and Netflix are cropping up all over the place nowadays and there are more on the horizon; Disney is starting their own in-house service, as is DC through Warner Brothers. So how do companies go about keeping people watching? With great exclusive content. Netflix have been at the forefront of this for years now, but with their new film Bright, they have really stepped it up a gear.
Bright is an fast paced, action-packed cop drama set in the mean streets of L.A., but there’s a twist… these streets are filled with orcs, fairies, elves and monsters. And to make things worse, magic is real in this universe and it’s a very real threat to everyone.
Two beat cops get embroiled in dangerous game when they stumble across the magical equivalent of a tactical nuke: a wand. Darrel Ward (Will Smith… Yes, that Will Smith!) is the reluctant partner of Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), the city’s first Orcish Police Officer. There is a lot of hatred and bigotry shown towards the orcs and elves by most areas of society, as they are seen as either brutish thugs or disgustingly rich snobs respectively.
There’s sword weilding weirdos, elvish ninjas with machine guns and orcish death-metal mosh pits, what more could you want?
Fresh from his work on Suicide Squad, Director David Ayers has clearly found some elements in that film that he’s enjoying playing with here: once again he’s combining magic and mythology with modern weaponry and combat, while exploring corruption, deception and honour. Only this time its in a world of creatures and monsters, as opposed to supe-heroes and villains.
He brings a really exciting visual style to the film, and is surprisingly successful in making the world feel both familiar and alien all at once. He gives us a living, breathing world filled with interesting ideas and then gets excited and starts blowing things up all over the place.
Made for a reported budget or around $90 million, Bright is a really ambitious film for something that is being billed as the blockbuster you’ll see first in your home. It feels very different from the current crop of studio-backed action films you see in the multiplexes throughout the U.S. summer.
It doesnt feel like it had a comittee overseeing its production, its very much the directors vision, its unashamedly odd and totally niche. It feels a bit like the cult classic The Warriors, mixed with a dash of Training Day, a hint of Alien Nation and a healthy dose of The Lord of the Rings.
It’s also impossible to watch it without thinking at least passingly of Shadowrun: the long running pen and paper RPG by TSR. On paper it looks like its a direct rip-off of that universe, but the film is very much its own beast and doesnt really feel like its anything more than a distant relative of, or loving homage to that game.
Where the film does feel a little odd is in its language (and we dont mean elvish or orcish). Many films these days cut back on their swearing to fit into a particular rating, ie. the closer to PG the more people who can see it. This one however doesn’t need to worry about a cinema rating, and concurrently it spends so much time “effing and blinding” to a such a degree that it starts to feel legitimately weird.
There are also a couple of slow patches in the middle and at least one sequence where you’ll struggle to follow what is supposed to be happening. But none of that really matters because under it all, there’s a solid film based on a really unsual and fun concept.
Will Smith is as charismatic as usual, and Joel Edgerton plays a great straight man even under the heavy make up. Noomie Rapace makes for an energized and exciting villain, while the rest of the cast seems to do a perfectly servicable job of rounding out the world. It’s dark, gritty and at times bloody as hell, but its also funny, creative and something totally out of the ordinary… and that is worthy of high praise indeed.
Bright premieres on Netflix exclusively on December 22nd and is well worth your time to check it out!