Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

Bad Boys

Grade : A- Year : 1995 Director : Michael Bay Running Time : 1hr 59min Genre : , , ,
Movie review score
A-

After a roller coaster of a 21 years with Michael Bay directing films since I first watched his debut action thriller, I was really taken aback by how good “Bad Boys” remains to this day. I remembered it as one of Bay’s better films, before he really became indulgent with “Armageddon” and “Pearl Harbor,” but I forgot the level of discipline he showed as a filmmaker here. Yes, it’s flashy. Yes, it’s stupid. And yes, it’s more style over substance. But it doesn’t forget about the importance of a strong story or well-written characters, and more importantly, character dynamics. He had this going for him in “The Rock,” “The Island” and the first “Transformers” film, as well, but often, he’s gone to the “bigger is better” school of cinema, with diminishing returns. Now that he’s done with the “Transformers” franchise, I hope he can get back to what has made his best films so good.

The first five films of his career were made with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the first two of those being produced with Bruckheimer’s long-time partner, Don Simpson, who passed away during “The Rock’s” production. Simpson was always considered the wild man of the pair, but I wonder if he also had a level of quality control, and self-control as a film producer, he maintained that Bruckheimer just doesn’t have, because while Bruckheimer and Bay made wildly successful films together (“Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor,” “Bad Boys II”), none of them compare, quality-wise, to “Bad Boys” and “The Rock.” I could say the same thing with the “Transformers” franchise- while I feel like Steven Spielberg was probably pretty hands-on with the first film, the messy fallout with Paramount and Dreamworks likely led to less hands-on from him on the sequels, and it shows. I guess I’m saying that Bay needs parental supervision if he’s going to make some pretty damn good films, because left to his own devices, I’m not sure how good a filmmaker he is.

Let’s bring it back to “Bad Boys.” This film is a buddy action comedy in the same vein of “Lethal Weapon” with a really wise-ass sense of humor that comes from the smart teaming of Will Smith (in his breakout film role) and Martin Lawrence. Smith and Lawrence play Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, who work Narcotics for Miami PD. Mike is a smooth-talking bachelor who inherited a lot of money, and isn’t afraid to show it off. Marcus is a family fan, with three kids and a great wife, although his job hasn’t allowed him much “quality time” with her. One of their previous cases needs a second look when a bunch of heroin they confiscated in a bust is stolen from a police vault. With Internal Affairs breathing down their throats thinking it’s a inside job, Mike reaches out to a friend, Max (Karen Alexander), who is an escort. She sets up an appointment with a former cop who they think could be a suspect, but the meeting ends bloody when a French drug kinpin named Fouchet (Tcheky Karyo) interrupts and kills not just Max, but the former cop. As it turns out, though, Max brought a friend to the appointment in her best friend, Julie (Tea Leoni), who witnessed Max’s murder, and was able to get away. Now, she is reaching out to Mike for help, only when Mike is out looking for a lead in the murder, Marcus has to act like Mike to get her to trust him, and when Mike enters the picture, he must pretend to be Marcus.

Alright, so the swapping lives aspect of the story is pretty silly, but it gives Smith and Lawrence a lot of room for comedy and fleshing out their respective characters, which is one of the reasons “Bad Boys” is able to distinguish itself from other action thrillers/buddy cop stories we’ve seen over the years. Smith and Lawrence have a natural chemistry to them, and since their backgrounds had been primarily in comedy at the time, they’re well suited for this film. So was Bay, and his direction of the action sequences is on-point, with his sense of space and logical flow of the action as good as its ever been. I watched this movie, and I was enjoying it in a way I haven’t enjoyed a Michael Bay film for the first time, in quite a long time. Yes, this was my second time watching it, but it’s been so long it might as well have been my first. I hope to see more from this Michael Bay again in the future.

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