By his standards, Michael Bay’s BAD BOYS is rather quaint. It’s a typical 1990s-era actioner, a buddy comedy built on two solid stars and bolstered with the slippery movement, coiling overheads and obnoxious theatrics that would make the director infamous through subsequent entries. It’s also an amusing trifle, a mostly innocuous prod at masculinity and “cop stuff” that runs the gamut of chases, explosions and misunderstandings.
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star as Miami cops Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett, respectively. They’re tasked with tracking down whoever pinched a pile of drugs from the police vault. IA believes it’s an inside job and the plot establishes the need to seek out informants and other shady characters. Meanwhile, the bad guys bust up a party and kill one such informant. This leads the informant’s pal Julie Mott (Téa Leoni) to require police protection, which in turn leads to one of those misunderstandings.
BAD BOYS is the product of an enthusiastic sense of action and that works for its boyish target audience. There’s plenty of good laughs for those in the mood, but further examination reveals that this thing really is a muddle of clichés and riffs. Like most Bay outings, there’s nothing intricate about the plot or the characters. Things balance on a shoestring of foreseeable reactions, like how there’s some confusion from Marcus that Mike is getting it on with his wife (Theresa Randle) or how the captain (Joe Pantoliano) yells a lot and smokes a cigar when he shoots hoops.
The lensing by Howard Atherton is sun-kissed and saturated in every ounce of filter that can be mustered, which gives things a cinematic feel and allows Bay confidence. There neat angles, like little curls down a staircase or overheads that show just how packed the aptly-named Club Hell is. The finale is likewise confidently shot, with a big X marking the spot for action as though things need to be more on the nose. This cements BAD BOYS as exactly what it is: a big, raucous, entertaining brick of a movie.