Sony // 1995 // 119 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // June 27th, 2000
Whatcha gonna do?
Bad Boys was the directorial debut of Michael Bay, perhaps better known for The Rock and Armageddon, his other two films. In this film Bay had to learn how to make an action movie for peanuts, if 17 million bucks can be considered elephant food. Still he was in the right place at the right time; finding Will Smith (Independance Day, Men In Black) and Martin Lawrence (Big Momma's House, Blue Streak) before they "took off." This is a formulaic look at the buddy cop genre, with plenty of gunfire, action stunts, and explosions. Being the testosterone junkie that I am, I liked it. Columbia has re-released yet another film with a bigger, better DVD. I like that too.
Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) are two vice cops in Miami (that's never been done before...nevermind) who are on the hot seat when 100 million dollars worth of heroin they'd seized in their career bust gets stolen from police custody. When one of their informants turns up dead, the only witness who can tie the drug dealers to the killing and heist is Julie Mott (Téa Leoni, Deep Impact). When she phones in willing to talk only to the absent Mike Lowrey, Marcus has to impersonate him, leading to a comedic subplot throughout the film as each pretends to be the other. Marcus has a wife and kids, while Mike is the smooth playboy, so this isn't a very close fit. Now the boys have to keep their overly audacious witness alive while tracking down the willing-to-kill-at-a-moments-notice villains.
The buddy cop genre is based on two characters who have distinct differences and viewpoints, bicker constantly but you know care about each other. This is straight from the textbook, and is followed pretty well here. Smith and Lawrence bicker constantly and sometimes you don't know if it isn't all a front for the friendship they don't like to acknowledge. The banter flows freely and keeps the film lively and fun while keeping the action level high. The actors set themselves firmly into their roles and did themselves proud even when the script (half of this was ad-libbed) wasn't worthy of the effort.
Michael Bay got his start in directing commercials and music videos, and the style comes through here and in all of his films. Quick edits, shifts in viewpoint are part and parcel of his work. I'm generally not a fan of this style, and felt that Armageddon was a huge waste of $140 million. Still this film works for me. His style works pretty well in the standard gunfight, blow things up milieu, and keeps a frenetic pace. The result is an often funny, high action picture without any pretense of originality or plot cohesion. I still liked it.
Columbia had released a pretty fair transfer on a barebones disc of this film in the early days, and has been one of the top studios in revisiting these titles and giving us a great anamorphic transfer and quality extras the second time around. They've improved on what was a pretty good transfer the first time; providing a nearly flawless, vivid picture. The source print was free of nicks or defect. Only a small amount of grain in one or two shots in an otherwise perfect source. Colors are bright, clear, and stunning without bleeding, even in the numerous fireball shots. Fleshtones and blacks are perfect. A tiny amount of shimmer in one or two places keeps this from being absolutely perfect in the digital realm. Still I'll bet you won't even find it. I was looking for such things or they'd take away my "absurdly obsessive videophile" card. Can't have that.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was first rate as well, with a wide, open front and a deep sound environment. Dynamic range was great, the sound was crystal clear. Dialogue is firmly anchored in the center lest it be overwhelmed by the numerous sound effects, and are therefore always intelligible. I did notice that the soundtrack lacked quite the wall shaking bass I was expecting. Bass response is fine, just not that "take the knick knacks off the shelf" variety. Overall an excellent soundtrack.
No skimping on the extras with this release. First and foremost is the commentary track by director Michael Bay. He owns up to many of the weaknesses in the story as he describes everything that went into making the film, including the arguments on set with the stars. There are a couple long pauses within the track, otherwise it's very interesting. The guns and practical effects had a large role in the picture and they do in the extras as well. A 24 minute documentary "The Boom and Bang Of Bad Boys" covers the explosions and effects. I found it very entertaining and teaches quite a bit about how such things are done. Following that up is the multi-angle feature "Damage Control" as they let you examine every angle of 2000 frame per second footage of the different guns firing into objects shown on the film. It shows the damage a real bullet does that they have to copy (or make even more spectacular) with effects later. An innovative feature I was glad to see. In addition there is an isolated musical score, something Columbia does on some discs I find an excellent addition. The only problem I had with this track was that sometimes the volume would drop out on the score because it was lowered for dialogue at that point in the scene. Trailers for Blue Streak, Men in Black and of course Bad Boys, production notes, a small photo gallery, talent files, and 3 music videos comprise the rest of the extras; a terrific package.
Did anyone get the number of that truck? It drove through one of the holes in the plot. If a cohesive, tightly written story line is what you find of paramount importance, you will likely be disappointed. The story is episodic, doesn't tie all that well together, and often is a set piece for the actors to play in. The whole subplot of Marcus pretending to be Mike fell flat after a couple scenes, and I begged for them to just own up to Julie who was who. I shouldn't complain too much; without that subplot we would have just had two guys arguing and shooting stuff.
Arguing and shooting stuff done with flair is enough to at least get some enjoyment out of the film, and it does that. Hence my liking the film despite its flaws. The script was originally written for white actors (can you believe Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz?) and it took a lot of ad-libbing from the black actors to make the dialogue sound authentic. In this regard they succeeded, at the cost of some cohesion in the story I'm sure.
Formulaic? You bet. Formula isn't always bad if it is done well, and while Bad Boys isn't quite Lethal Weapon it follows in its footsteps with interesting main characters and plenty of things-go-boom stuff. And that's exactly what the viewer is expecting.
I do have one thing to say about Michael Bay and the commentary track. He constantly complained about "only" having 17 million dollars for this film. Considering he's got over 140 million for Pearl Harbor and spent the same on Yawnageddon 17 mil must sound like chicken feed. He must be better at spending money than anyone else in Hollywood, and that's saying something. For what it's worth, I think he made 17 million look pretty good.
This release of Bad Boys gets my vote of approval for guys who like action movies and don't mind that it isn't high drama. This disc definitely is a keeper for those who like the film. The special features are nice enough to almost make you want it even if you didn't like the film. If you think any foreign film with subtitles is superior to anything done on a big budget by Hollywood, then pass this one up.
Bad Boys is fined for a script lacking in polish, but acquitted for the overall look, action, and camaraderie within. Columbia is definitely acquitted for a fine disc I'm glad to have in my collection. Court is adjourned, I'm going to grab a bag of popcorn and watch something get blown up. I like that.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director's Commentary
* Effects Feature
* Multi Angle Effects Feature
* Music Videos
* Production Notes
* Talent Files
* Isolated Musical Score track