With 1995’s Bad Boys, the world was introduced to the talents of director Michael Bay for the first time. The film lays the foundation for the blow-it-up-good style that the filmmaker currently employs to great box office success and considerable critical disdain. Bay’s penchant for cleavage and guns has become synonymous with American blockbuster cinema in many ways – at least for a little while.
There’s something cool about Bad Boys, though, and Bay doesn’t have all that much to do with it. His style is apparent from the opening scenes; everything is bathed in unnatural colours and augmented through big arcing crane shots or angled shots of protagonists getting out of cars and so on. What lifts this flick above its maker is the charisma of the two stars and the relative ease with which they keep up with Bay’s frenetic pace.
The film stars Martin Lawrence as Marcus Burnett and Will Smith as Mike Lowrey. They are best buddies and cops, which makes Bad Boys a buddy cop movie in every sense of the term. Mike and Marcus are very different: Marcus is a family man who needs the paycheque and Mike is a swingin’ cop with rich relatives.
After a boatload of heroin is stolen from the police evidence vault, Mike and Marcus are called into action to take care of the case. A shooting witness (Téa Leoni) becomes involved and Marcus must step into the role of Mike to help keep her safe. The villains, led by Fouchet (Tchéky Karyo), wreak havoc all over Miami. And the police chief (Joe Pantoliano) has to deal with Internal Affairs breathing down his neck.
As you can probably tell from my cursory description of the plot of Bad Boys, Bay’s film has no problems washing itself in clichés. With pictures like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard already making dents in the genre, the market for Bad Boys was ripe. Weirdly, producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer initially wanted Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey to star. It’s doubtful that the movie would’ve done as well.
Smith and Lawrence are great together, no question about it, and their charismatic ad-libs make the movie very enjoyable. Both actors were starring in their own hit television shows at the time. Between Lawrence’s energetic nervousness, highlighted by a pile of terrific lines and all sorts of fumbling around, and Smith’s cool-as-hell aura, the cops of Bad Boys are worth the price of admission.
But Bay leans his movie so heavily on clichés and bombastic camera work that it can be hard to get at what Smith and Lawrence are truly capable of. That’s not to say that Bad Boys would’ve been better dialed down, as there is some redeeming quality to be found in Bay’s approach and his contagious energy. I’m not overly sure what that redeeming quality is, mind you, but this movie isn’t nearly as loathsome as his later work.
There is an abundance of dialogue in Bad Boys, which sometimes pads the more boring scenes between explosions and chases and sometimes gets in the way. Smith and Lawrence apparently improvised a bunch of their lines, including the “two bitches in the sea” bit, and their ability to play off of each other shines.
Bad Boys is really kind of like a sitcom, but things blow up real good and there’s some decent action. The characters are entertaining, Leoni wears skirts that are so short they shouldn’t really qualify as skirts, the police chief yells at everyone, and the bad guy is French. Make of that what you will.