I decided to give Bright a watch. Not because I give a fuck about a Will Smith Netflix Shadowrun ripoff, but because I love David Ayer movies.
This is the dude who Wrote Training Day but became most famous for directing Suicide Squad. I don’t love his movies because he makes great movies, I love his movies because he makes a lot of bad ones.
My favorites are Keanu Reeves in Street Kings, Christian Bale in Harsh Times and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Sabotage. These are all gritty cop movies with entirely too much macho bro talk, extreme violence and corny plot lines. So all of the bad reviews going around about Bright only make me more likely to enjoy it. All of the complaining seemed to be exactly what I like about his flicks.
To be honest, the trailer didn’t do much for me. The Will Smith action/joke routine has gotten old several decades after he endeared us as the wise cracking fighter pilot and alien puncher in Independence Day and solidified his place as an action hero with the Bad Boys movies.
The aesthetic of the trailer reminded me far more of Underworld than Alien Nation which it’s endlessly been compared to. There’s something about original properties in the age of social media. Audiences just can’t handle the idea of a stand-alone film which does not reference their nostalgia either by being a direct sequel to an 80s movie/show/comic or by setting its narrative in that era.
The same thing happened to Chappie a few years ago. The movie was senselessly attacked by boobs on social media as a “robocop/short circuit” ripoff. My take on this phenomenon is that the people accusing these movies of being too much like some random thing from the 80s/early 90s haven’t actually watched those movies from the 80s/90s or if they have, it’s been decades since they viewed the material and are just desperate to anchor this new property onto something they remember.
So now that I’ve done my own anchoring by comparing the look of the film to Underworld and the plot to Shadowrun, let’s just throw that right out. The movie is nothing like Underworld or Shadowrun. In fact, it is an unabashed David Ayer movie. The batshit crazy high-concept script by Max Landis only enhances Ayer’s film making style and I suspect that Ayer re-wrote the dialogue as he’s done many times in the past to fit his own preferences for how city cops talk to one another.
I was happy to see beats so similar to the Ayer films I mentioned up above. For being such a high-concept film about fantasy monsters who have evolved side-by-side with humans for two thousand years, Bright ends up being a gritty inner city cop flick about reluctant partners just trying to survive the night after they stumble upon a magic wand, making them target number 1 for everyone from the corrupt cops to gang-banger humans, an Ork clan and of course those crazy ninja-like Elves.
For fans of Ayer, watching him work in this huge world of racial tension between fantasy creatures as well as a whole magic mythology while sacrificing none of his street-talk dialogue and frenetic action violence is just a delight. This kind of movie is so unique not in its high-concept attempt to blend fantasy with reality, but by giving it an R rating and allowing such amazing lines as “We gonna get killed, let’s get titty-bar-shoot-out killed!”
This type of R rated banter allows the world to seem fully lived in even if it is never fully realized. We hear talk of epic Ork battles, dark lords and magic wands that grant its users limitless power. But what we get is one night with a pair of cops who don’t like each other but have no one else to rely on but each other.
By the end of the film, these two characters are riffing off one another in hilarious fashion that just begs to be sequelized so we can see more adventures between Jacoby and Ward.
I give Bright 5 Strangeheads out of 5 not because it’s a perfect movie but because it’s a bold, uncompromising movie with an original premise not connected to nostalgia, totally willing to forge its own path ahead in these dark cinematic times.