– Summary –
Director : Michael Bay
Year Of Release : 1995
Principal Cast : Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Tcheky Karyo, Tea Leoni, Vic Manni, Frank John Hughes, Joe Pantoliano, Nestor Serrano, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Theresa Randle, Marg Helgenberger, Michael Imperioli, Karen Alexander.
Approx Running Time : 118 Minutes
Synopsis: Two LA Miami cops take it to a criminal network to recover stolen drugs.
What we think : One of the definitive 90’s action movies: fast, loud, crass and filled with all of Michael Bay’s grab-bag of cinematic tricks – including low angles and the famous “spin around the lead characters” shot. Although it’s not a smart movie, nor is it designed to elicit much more than vicarious thrills, Bay’s schizophrenic direction and overly heroic portrayal of Smith and Lawrence’s characters provide plenty of slam-bang entertainment without being either fresh or interesting. Commercially successful, sure. Critically substantive? Not quite.
The late 90’s were a great time for action cinema in Hollywood. Films like The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off, Bad Boys, The Matrix and Die Hard With A Vengeance all arrived between 1995 and 1999, with Bad Boys in particular seeing the debut of the man who would become the industry byword for inflated egos, gargantuan effects and set-pieces, and a James Cameron-like drill sergeant style on the set. Michael Bay’s feature debut, Bad Boys, also launched the career of Will Smith into the elite A-list, after a promising critical appraisal in Six Degrees of Separation. Smith would go on to appear in Independence Day, Men in Black, and Enemy of The State, ensuring his place as one of the preeminent stars of the 90’s – until he starred in Wild Wild West, a film so damnable and incredibly stupid it dented that once-impenetrable wall of success. Back to Bay, though, the man who would go on to make films like The Rock, Armageddon and Bad Boys II, as well as the gargantuan Transformers franchise. Bay’s debut on the big screen with Bad Boys came after success in the commercial advertising industry, as a man who could achieve a lot with a little (you’d never think it now, would you), so his transition to the silver screen with his flashy camera tricks and sense of epic action style seemed inevitable. Although his career appears to be seated at the right hand of Optimus Prime at this moment, the director who gave us so much 90’s carnage came to town in a big way with Bad Boys.
Time has not been kind to Bad Boys. Unlike its decade-era brethren, Bad Boys has aged terribly, from the crass humor and politically incorrect dialogue, to the woefully inept “comedy” of Smith and Lawrence (the latter of whom is just as annoying back then as he is now!) and the generic, genre-cliched casting couch effort by Bay and his team. In saying that, this is a Michael Bay film, so it’s to be expected that what worked back in 1995 doesn’t always go over so well today, but the intervening years have not been kind to this ham-hock written mess. The scripting is horrendous and skin crawling at times, although Bay’s canny enough to sit the “story” and “plot” firmly into the background of the gigantic action sequences he employs as the story wears on – and wears you down. Filled with typical Bay excess, Bad Boys is an exercise in tedious “fun” from Smith and Lawrence, who spend the majority of the film belittling and upbraiding each other in that “best friends who won’t admit it” kinda way that wore out its welcome several decades ago.
Oh, and I shouldn’t forget Tea Leoni, one of the only actresses on Earth whom I would gladly eat my own eyeballs than have to endure another “performance” of hers. I made it through Deep Impact and Bad Boys, but after Spanglish I figured I just hated her for no reason other than she was a terrible actress and a horribly voiced human being. Probably not her fault, but that’s okay. I endured her in Bad Boys again, knowing she wasn’t exactly “leading lady” material (of the kind Bay has come to be known for, in any case), and she proved to be just as ear-splittingly grating again as she was the first few times I saw this film. Never mind her character is poorly written, or her arc is lamentably stupid thanks to whatever the hell passed for a script (credited to Michael Barrie, Jim Mulholland and Doug Richardson), she’s as forgettable a film character as there ever has been.
The “story” of the film is primarily a way of ensuring Smith and Lawrence get into as many near-misses, scrapes and explosions as possible. Gun battles, car chases, helicopter explosions and all manner of Bay-infused chaos rain down upon the hapless viewer forced to engage with idiotic characters and a plethora of illogical and unbelievable plot points. Bad Boys is so Michael Bay, it even out Michael Bay’s Michael bay. Smith shows a charm that is about the only shining light here, as Mike Lowry, the suave, sophisticated rich-boy cop who is partner to Lawrence’s grounded, earthy Burnett. Smith seems to cruise through this film – much like he cruised through Fresh Prince Of Bel Air – and his effortless screen presence is magnetic. The camera loves him, that’s for sure. Yet Bay seems unsure of how to handle him; or Leoni and Lawrence, for that matter, as people. The characters in this film behave less like real human beings and more like chess pieces of chaos, orchestrated to elicit frantic emotional beats interspersed with jagged action sequences.
If you approach Bad Boys with the mindset of a pre-teen boy sneaking into the cinema to watch a film far too old for him, you’ll probably have fun with this movie. Filled with juvenile humor that falls flat more often than not, a sense of bravado in its action beats thanks to Bay’s assured handling of the camera, and a misogynistic undercurrent that reeks of testosterone committee-meeting film-making, this Jerry Bruckheimer-produced action opus handles itself with the dexterity of a flatbed semi, momentum being everything and subtlety taking a back seat – if it’s even in the vehicle. Bad Boys is a man’s film, a beer-n-pizza chugger that will probably do the job it needs to depending on your level of intoxication. As a cohesive, meaningful film, Bad Boys is anything but.