From the director of Suicide Squad and End of Watch
Bright is another in a string of Netflix Originals that I've seen a trailer for and thought "Hey, I should check this out at some point." Then I did. It's a pretty simple thought process on that one, no recommendation or hidden gem digging or anything of that sort, but it seems nothing these days is without some form of story behind. For whatever reason, critical acclaim this thing did not get - in fact, as far as the critics are concerned there are better Stephen King adaptations than this movie. Let's dive in to see if they bright or dim.
To properly enjoy this movie, one should first temper their expectations - this is by and large a cop movie set in a pseudo-fantasy universe, where modern day is injected with Orcs and Elves and all manner of other fantasy races. The first thing that comes to mind for many is probably Shadowrun - indeed, having never even played it the first thought to cross my mind was just that. It's the very premise that sold me on checking out the movie in the first place. Still, although things like magic and wands and fantasy races may exist, this thing is largely a movie about a pair of cops.
The story is actually something that by itself doesn't feel all that unique - a couple of cops who find something, try to do the right thing, and then have seemingly the entire world turn against them while they keep trying to do the right thing. Heck, it might not even be the best rendition of that story - but the fact that it does inject in that fantasy element helps to make it feel more special than it may be. Some complexity is injected into the plot with the dynamic between the two partner cops, giving them a sort of tension right from the get go. Heck, it even goes as far as to make the main human feel a bit detestable. It feeds greatly into the character drama aspect of the movie, which certainly helps make it feel more developed than the rudimentary plot would ever expect to be.
Of course, there are plenty of moments where things are foreshadowed or otherwise drastically transparent as to how they are going to play out - in part due to being such a used story, and also in part to some degree because I've seen the trailer. The pacing is slightly slower in the beginning, but picks up before long and keeps a steady pace of pumping the breaks for a little bit inbetween some thrilling chases, gunfights, or otherwise dangerous situations. After the wand comes into play, it's a guessing game as to who is safe to trust, if anyone, and with the big bad tied of the movie tied to the wand, the pressure of getting found is always on - a bit of tension that rises after getting a demonstration or two of just how boss the baddies are. Even with the action though, it keeps working at making that relationship between the two partners work, and even goes through some nice lengths of keeping their characters somewhat intact and not completely turned from their starting selves by the end of it.
Action doesn't always work thought. It really depends on how it's shot - and here, I'm happy to say it's mostly done quite well. It can get a bit cutty, or a little shaken at times, but it's never enough that it's causing me to loose track of whats going on, or spacing out on positional relations between characters. For the most part, the actions of characters even make sense - even to the point that most every gang leader has some form of reasonable motivation force towards their pursuit beyond just "being evil" - well, except perhaps the main baddies. It's a nice touch that didn't need to be there to facilitate anything else going on, and I can appreciate it.
A lot of the movie takes place at night, and in turn is a bit dark. Nicely enough, however, this isn't so darkly lit that you can't see things, and the vast majority of the time despite it all being dark you can still pick out details of things on walls, vehicles, outfits, or just general scenery. The lighting actually helps the mood, instead of just overriding everything like some of the more obtrusive darkness films I've watched. The prosthetics, paints, and effects used for the actors are simple but enough to make them feel like they are actually another race - down to the filed triangular teeth of the elves, and the patchy skin tones of the orcs. Although we do get a centaur in the background and a fairy here or there, that's most the race-action going on in this movie, so it in turn also doesn't overload the watcher with too much at once. The action effects are likewise all pretty darn good - explosions and in particularly burnt out bodies from magical endeavors all hit the spots, with a few of the effects even leaving a lasting impression.
And of course, the actors all do a great job with their roles. As mentioned before, to some extent our lead human is even a little unlikeable - sharing the universe wide apparent dislike of Orcs - although at least in his case it seems to stem less from a racists standpoint and instead from an injury sustained while in duty because of his partners negligence shown to us at the start of the movie. It's a bit of a commentary on society in that regards - although I also find it highly amusing that upon watching it a second time, most the humans in the movie (intentional or not) seem to largely be drawn from minorities - and the part I enjoy the most about it is that it wouldn't change a thing in the movie if it wasn't. It's rare that that sort of thing should really matter in a movie in my mind, but it rings in great when you come across lines such as "Why are Orcs always the bad guys" and having a trooper nearby go "Don't ask me, Mexicans are still getting crap for the Alamo." Although, since it is somewhat related to acting (although largely more to writing), there are some lines which seem a bit hammy or misplaced at times. There is also a metric crapton of cursing - if that's a thing that offends you. It's that kind of cursing that you see a lot in things where we "want to make it real and gritty" that I know bothers some people, but personally doesn't effect me any more than a modern curse getting use in a historical movie where it shouldn't exist - I'm just here to have fun.
And fun this movie ended up being. I had a blast with this, even with it's blemishes. It may not be some sort of record breaking mega-hit, but I don't seem to be the only person who doesn't agree with the Critical reception on this one - a gander at Rotten Tomatoes shows the audience score to be almost completely inverse that of the Critic score. It might not be the best constructed flick with the most unique features and awesome plot, but it's for sure still one worth checking out if you have a Netflix subscription - or a rental in some other way, if they make it available as such. Heck, go visit your friend who has Netflix and watch it there - as long as the bold language doesn't bother you, it's a pretty dang good cop movie and it really sets up a universe that should be quite fun to revisit later on.