By the time “Bad Boys” landed back in 1995 the buddy-cop movie had been done and done again. Throughout the 80s and early 90s countless movies like “48 Hrs” and “Lethal Weapon” had plowed the all-too-familiar ground multiple times each. ￼The mixture of comedy and big action was a proven formula ￼but for many people it had started to wear a bit thin.
“Bad Boys” is the kind of movie you would expect to be Michael Bay’s feature film directorial debut. It’s loud, silly, fast-paced and driven by two high-energy actors. But you can tell the soon-to-be action genre stalwart was still cutting his teeth. Bay had yet to fully embrace the bombast and relentless fever-pitched style that has become his signature to this very day. That makes “Bad Boys” a bearable watch but barely.
Successful sitcoms had put both Will Smith (“The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”) and Martin Lawrence (“Martin”) on the edge of superstardom. “Bad Boys” was the movie that pushed them over, especially Smith who would make the blockbuster hit “Independence Day” the very next year. Here the pair show off a lively chemistry and they clearly have a good time improvising while navigating a script that is at times mind-numbingly bad.
Stealing from numerous movies that came before it, “Bad Boys” sets itself in Miami where two narcotics detectives, the antsy family man Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) and the trigger-happy playboy ￼Mike Lowrey (Smith), head the investigation into the theft of over $100 million worth of seized heroin from a local precinct. When Mike’s informant and former love interest is murdered by a French drug kingpin named Fouchet (Tchéky Karyo) the lone witness Julie (Téa Leoni) seeks out Mike for protection.
This leads to the biggest of several logic-defying storylines. After barely escaping with her life Julie calls the police station saying she’ll only speak to Mike who happens to be out. Marcus reluctantly poses as Mike to gain Julie’s trust but for some inexplicable reason continues the charade along with Mike for the majority of the movie. It’s a preposterous￼ plot device whose only purpose seems to be setting up a ton of mediocre gags. Never mind that it makes no sense.
“Bad Boys” isn’t ashamed of employing overused character tropes from the dogged Internal Affairs officer (Marg Helgenberger) who thinks it’s an inside job to the hot-tempered police captain (Joe Pantoliano) who is constantly barking at Marcus and Mike. And when it isn’t rehashing many of the genre’s greatest hits, it’s bombarding the screen with bullets and banter. Honestly that isn’t a bad thing. It diverts our attention from many of the screenplay’s shortcomings. And while the banter gets old, the action offers some needed thrills.
There is no denying “Bad Boys” resonated with many people. It brought home almost $150 million (not bad for an R-rated movie 25 years ago) and spawned two sequels (eventually) while catapulting the careers of its two stars and director. Through a mixture of charisma and testosterone Smith and Lawrence manage a handful of chuckles and a couple of decent action scenes. But their shtick eventually runs its course and the film ended up testing my tolerance for persistent high-volume yelling and shallow, unoriginal storytelling.
VERDICT – 2 STARS