Sony // 1995 // 119 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // June 9th, 2010
"My word on this movie was, I think, 'No, it's gonna be bitchin'. It's gonna be bitchin'.'" -- Michael Bay
Whatcha gonna do when director Michael Bay's (Transformers) feature debut comes for you in high definition?
Miami narcotics detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith, Independence Day) and Marcus Bennett (Martin Lawrence, Big Momma's House) are drawn into adventure when 100 million dollars worth of heroin that they seized in a previous investigation is stolen from the precinct's evidence vault. With an Internal Affairs officer (Marg Helgenberger, CSI) breathing down their necks, the partners must crack the case and retrieve the smack before news of the theft hits the press and turns into a political liability for their captain (Joe Pantaliano, The Matrix). The investigation is complicated when the French drug lord responsible for the heist kills a hooker who used to work as an informant for Lowrey, and the hooker's beautiful (and feisty, of course) roommate (Téa Leoni, Fun with Dick and Jane) runs to the detectives for protection.
Let me assure you at the outset that I'm not one of the many critics who suffers from a knee-jerk antipathy toward all things Michael Bay. I fully understand that his movies are loud, obnoxious, and mostly vacuous on purpose, and that those qualities aren't necessarily deficits in escapist summer blockbusters (Bay himself appears to harbor no illusions that he's making anything other than raucous, fairly disposable entertainment). Having defended Bay (to a certain extent), I'll now admit that there's not a lot in his oeuvre that I actually enjoy. My complaint with Bay's movies isn't that they're loud and dumb (again, on purpose); it's that they tend to overstay their welcome by 30 to 45 minutes. Popcorn flicks ought to run 90 to 100 minutes. A two-hour running time presses the bounds of good taste. Anything beyond that begins to feel less like an adrenaline-fueled fun ride than a beating with a tube sock filled with quarters. Take for example, Bay's Armageddon. It's decent enough fun for its first two acts, but once it passes the two-hour mark, I can actually feel myself getting older as I'm subjected to an additional half-hour of clichéd dialogue, maudlin orchestra swells, and action sequences that, while well choreographed, lack the style, grace, and honest-to-goodness suspense to convince my bladder that it doesn't want to explode. The Transformers movies -- feature films based on a television cartoon from the '80s that in turn was based on a line of toys, for goodness' sake -- run nearly as long as the Lord of the Rings movies, which were based on one of the most celebrated and conceptually rich novels of the last century. That's the sort of thing that transforms me from a contented viewer of check-your-brain-at-the-door action involving giant robots smashing themselves (and New York) to pieces, to that guy who probably ought to be enrolled in a court-ordered anger management program because he hollers at inanimate objects such as movie screens.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I don't dislike Bad Boys simply because it's a Michael Bay flick. I dislike it because it doesn't quite work on its own terms. Buddy cop comedies have a particular formula. We're all familiar with that formula because we've seen it again and again in flicks like 48 Hours, Lethal Weapon, Men in Black, Rush Hour, Hot Fuzz, and countless other entries in the genre: One cop (the straight man) is austere, supremely professional, and very often too old for this shit; the other cop (the comedian) is a wise-cracking loose cannon who happens to be preternaturally talented when it comes to the parts of police work that involve shooting people, blowing stuff up, raising captains' blood pressures, and not filling out reports. Bay violates this hard-set formula by casting two comedians as his cops (both Will Smith and Martin Lawrence were headlining successful television sitcoms at the time the movie was made). The result is a cacophony of loose cannoning, hot doggery, and comedic one-upmanship -- at least on Lawrence's part. Smith seemed to grasp that this was his opportunity to break the bonds of television comedy and fashion himself into a bona fide silver screen action hero, so he ostensibly took the thankless straight-man role -- or at least stepped aside to allow Lawrence to be the one to make a complete ass of himself. Though Smith's dialogue was laden with silly one-liners, he played Lowrey stone cool and dignfied. Lawrence, on the other hand, apparently approached his role as a challenge to prove himself funnier than the Fresh Prince, ratcheting up the mania to Mantan Moreland levels of annoying. With a running time just shy of two hours, Bad Boys is the leanest film Bay has ever made. That would be a huge benefit if not for the fact that it is 100 minutes of story (at most) padded with at least 20 unnecessary minutes of Martin Lawrence's bug-eyed buffoonery.
Though it's easy to bat Lawrence around for the film's faults, the blame lies squarely at Bay's feet. The first-time director, faced with assembling a crowd-pleaser from a poor script, encouraged his two leads to improvise dialogue to their hearts' content. That's a fine idea, but directors must exert control at some point, whether on set or in the editing suite. Bay did not. Bad Boys' comic excesses spring from the same well of self-indulgence that led Bay to assemble giant fighting robot pictures that stretch on for nearly as long as The Godfather. I'm sure that Martin Lawrence gave Bay exactly what he wanted during the shoot (in the audio commentary included on this disc, Bay describes Lawrence as a "comic genius"). Lawrence's performance would be much, much better if there were less of it. Not crossing the line into excess was Bay's responsibility, not Lawrence's. Film is a director's medium. But whether it's Technicolor explosions, Ben Affleck speechifying about how Bruce Willis has never failed at anything in his life, languid shots of Meagan Fox's Daisy-Duked derriere bent over a motor vehicle of one kind or another, or Martin Lawrence rolling his bugged-out eyes and saying mother$@* for the umpteenth time, Bay's film career demonstrates nothing if not that the director either doesn't know the meaning of the word "gratuitous" or doesn't care. Like nearly every flick Bay has made, Bad Boys is technically accomplished but not-quite-edited-enough actioner that would be much improved by trimming away about one quarter of its running time.
Bad Boys lands on Blu-ray in a 1080p/AVC transfer that offers a noticeable improvement over the DVD (not a surprise since the DVD was released back when that format was only two years old), but is still far from reference quality. Detail is occasionally razor sharp in close-ups, but is more often merely decent. Colors are accurate and natural, but Bay's warm, stylized lighting is sometimes overblown. The image is stable and filmic with the exception of some isolated instances of edge enhancement haloing.
Audio has been given a noticeable boost with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio track in 5.1 surround. Limited only by the age of the source, the track makes fine use of the entire soundstage, including some decent directional panning during the many action sequences. Dialogue is crisp and clear, though not as vibrant as the digital recordings served up with more recent blockbusters.
Most of the disc's extras are taken from the 2000 Special Edition DVD. Chief among them is a feature-length audio commentary by Bay. His talk is energetic, amiable, and loaded with interesting anecdotes. Bay delivers a veritable clinic on low-budget filmmaking, pointing out how he created particular shots on the cheap, and how they edited the movie to hide the cheap sets.
"Boom and Bang of Bad Boys" (23:54) is a featurette about the pyrotechnicians, gun handlers, stunt people, and special effects coordinators responsible for the movie's over-the-top action.
Rounding out the reheated extras is a trio of music videos: "Five O, Five O" by 69 Boys, "Shy Guy" by Diana King, and "So Many Ways" by Warren G. All three videos are presented in 480p standard definition. They look as dated as the tunes sound.
Exclusive to this Blu-ray release is a MovieIQ feature available to Internet-connected Blu-ray players. It's a little clunky, but provides scene-specific in-movie background information about the movie, cast, crew, and soundtrack via a menu in the top-right corner of the screen.
The disc is also BD-Live enabled, which means you can watch trailers for nine other Sony releases and that's about it.
Whatever the movie's faults, it's cool that Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer had the balls to cast African-American actors as both of the film's leads at a time when it was assumed that you needed a white movie star if you wanted your movie to pull in big-time box office. Bad Boys' 140 million dollar worldwide take on a 10 million dollar budget nearly single-handedly exploded that myth -- and that's a good thing.
Each time I see Bad Boys, I really want to like it as a silly but relentlessly fun, R-rated action-comedy. Its energy and competently executed action make the weak plot a moot point. Unfortunately, the comedy becomes so strained and overreaching that it puts a major damper on the fun.
The absence of any meaningful HD exclusives makes this Blu-ray a minor disappointment, but fans of the movie will be pleased with the noticeable audio/video upgrade. Don't hesitate to dump that old DVD.
The court finds Bad Boys not bitchin'.
Review content copyright © 2010 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (French)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Music Videos