RETRO REVIEW: “Bad Boys” (1995)

BadposterLONGBy 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.


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“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.



27 thoughts on “RETRO REVIEW: “Bad Boys” (1995)

  1. This film and The Rock are the only films of Michael Bay that I can tolerate and watch as they’re actually good. I think the reason they’re good was the fact that it was co-produced by Don Simpson who I’m sure kept Bay in check from going overboard. Once he died during the production of The Rock, I think Jerry Bruckheimer realized he was dealing with someone who is insane but supported Bay out of respect for Simpson.

    That is why anything after The Rock that Bay did is unwatchable and I haven’t seen nor am I willing to watch anything Bay has done since the third Transformers film.

    • I agree with you on The Rock. That film is tons of fun. This one though, not so much. I didn’t remember much about it, but rewatching it I was surprised by just how dumb the story was. Bad Boys II tomorrow.

    • Not….at….all. I was surprised at how it played during a rewatch. I wasn’t a big fan before but even less a second time around. Reviewing part 2 tomorrow and the newest on Wednesday.

  2. You nailed it. I never liked this movie. Just found it loud and obnoxious.Plus I just don’t think Smith and Lawrence really had much chemistry ( unlike Gibson and Glover ). I usually like Smith but this one is a waste of his talent .I haven’t watched the sequels and really have zero plans to.

    • Gibson and Glover are hands-down better in my opinion. In fact I’d take several of those old buddy cop films over BB. As for the sequels, I’m getting into them tomorrow and Wednesday.

  3. The two movies are really only worth watching for the airtight chemistry Smith and Lawrence have. Lawrence in particular owned much of the 90’s, and rewatching these along with Martin reminded me how funny and talented he was…and kind of can still be.

    But as a whole, I mentioned that they’re a little romanticized and held higher than they are in my piece. My working theory is that growing up (recently turned 30 a week ago), my age group treated these two movies as some of the “cool” movies to watch, the ones you’d incessantly watch with your friends on VHS/DVD and remark how “awesome” and “funny” they were because they were slightly outside of our ages being R rated and all. I was 5 when the first movie released, and 13 when the second movie released. Especially as an 8th grader following that summer, Bad Boys II and the Nelly song that accompanied it was all the rage.

      • Oops! If it’s any consolation, I feel pretty old these days too, and as I thought about my age when these movies came out it’s kind of shocking.

        Life is funny and sometimes I think of these things on a macro sense. I’ve always been kind of intrigued on why the Bad Boys movies get a fair deal of love and now I think there’s something to it.

      • You could be right. But the pull of that kind of nostalgia is undeniable. I admit to having those same feelings for so many movies from the 80s. Some good ones, others not so good. I think that sticks with us through the years.

  4. I haven’t seen this movie in years. I worked at a theater when Bad Boys II came out and that Shake Your Tailfeather Song played on our movie tunes all summer. I remember that song more than any of the films, even though I recall enjoying them enough for what they were.

    • They didn’t leave a big impression on me when they originally came out and I was surprised by how little I remembered about them. Heck, I don’t even remember the Tailfeather song. Am I….ahem….getting old?

  5. I enjoyed Bad Boys when I was younger, but cannot recall most of it for the life of me. That said, I wouldn’t expect much from a Michael Bay film. 😂 From what I’ve read, it seems the new one is miles better!

  6. I remember watching it a few times because of its style and actors. But Keith, do you think that this film was a turning point for action movies? In terms of having more energy and style?

    • Interesting question. I don’t really think so mainly because they were doing a lot of the same things many other movies were already doing. For me it wasnt all that original except for the chemistry between Smith and Lawrence. It did have a slightly different style though.

  7. Pingback: RETRO REVIEW: “Bad Boys” (1995) — Keith & the Movies | Los Angeles feedback film festival

  8. Nothing about this film makes sense. Why does Mike know the black woman? Who just happens to be a hooker, who is warned by her madam/pimp that this drug dealer is well know to get high off his own supply. They arrive and find a drug dealer high.

    The only reason they kill the madam is because they killed the hooker. The only reason they kill the hooker is because she knew some high off his face drug dealer was in trouble with his buddies for having a party with two hookers. The hookers aren’t going to give a shit. What are they going to do go to the police and report that whilst hooking a drug dealer had drugs and was high?

    In fact if they don’t kill the hooker for seeing drugs the cops have no leads. They could have just paid the hookers their couple a hundred and told them to piss off. They would have gone home and the drug dealers would have got rid of their idiot friend and made millions.

    This is all just typical Michael Bay plots. So I’m not surprised.

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