Bad Boys (1995)
“Whatcha gonna do?”
Bad Boys (1995)
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Tea Leoni
Synopsis: Two hip detectives protect a murder witness while investigating a case of stolen heroin.
In its’ brief pre-credits sequence, Bad Boys reveals with admirable precision the exact demographic at which it is targeted: a pair of smart-talking cops in a high-powered muscle car are distracted from verbally abusing one another by a hot chick with never-ending legs so that her armed accomplices can sneak up behind them and steal their car. The cops aren’t fazed, though, and take out their would-be attackers with some well-aimed kicks and punches. That’s cool guys, hot women, fast cars, and violent crime – all in the space of a couple of minutes. The efficiency is admirable, even if the content is not.
The two cops are Mike Lowrey (Will Smith – Independence Day, After Earth) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence). Smith, of course, is the cool one, while Lawrence amounts to little more than his comedy sidekick. After his success in the TV comedy The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Smith was looking to reinvent himself. He’d clearly bulked up for the part of Lowrey, and first-time director Michael Bay accommodatingly filmed a couple of slo-mo shots of him running with his shirt unbuttoned so that the audience could admire his newly-acquired physique. Lowrey and Burnett are capable cops even if Lawrence’s broad performance means that Burnett comes across as an incompetent fool. Their colleagues aren’t so accomplished, and have just allowed the $100 million haul of heroin Lowrey and Burnett brought in to be stolen from the vaults of Miami police station, so it’s understandable that shouty police chief Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano – Midnight Run, The Matrix) trusts only Lowrey and Burnett to retrieve the haul and bring the bad guys to justice before the whole department is shut down by Internal Affairs. When a friend of Lowrey’s is murdered by the gang responsible for the theft, the woman who witnessed the killing (Tea Leoni) refuses to be placed under protective custody, insisting instead that Lowrey protects her. However, she mistakenly believes Burnett is Lowrey so, while setting her straight would clearly be the sensible thing to do, the cops decide to swap identities, leaving us to speculate over why such an abysmally poor screenplay required the services of three screenwriters.
Given its lacklustre quality, the obvious conclusion to reach is that it was necessary to employ a couple of doctors to try and salvage something. They failed. Even Bay believed the screenplay was garbage, and encouraged his leading men to ad lib whenever they felt like it. Sometimes, you can tell when they’re doing so because they sound more natural. Unfortunately, they’re no funnier when they stray from the script than when they stick to it. Both Smith and Lawrence talk that lyrical jive talk black comics believe makes them sound like they’re from the streets. You know the kind of thing – talk of asses, mostly: smokin’ ass, punk ass, kick yo’ ass, that sort of thing. Like Smith, Lawrence was also trying to shape up into a major movie star and receives at least equal time with his partner, but he just gets more irritating the longer he’s on-screen.
Although Bad Boy is a bad movie, Bay did well with his limited budget, drawing not only on ‘80s TV show Miami Vice for inspiration, but also every ‘80s buddy cop movie you can think of. It looks slick and glossy, even if it is rubbish, but the consistently poor quality of the writing gets a little dispiriting after a while, and it’s kind of sad that such a bad movie did well enough at the box office to justify a sequel.
(Reviewed 31st December 2015)
Click below for a free preview of the Kindle book, The Films of Will Smith. The book, written by the author of this review, features reviews of all of the actor’s films, and is available to buy, or to read for free if you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited.