Bad Boys

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A movie review by James Berardinelli



Bad Boys

ACTION:

United States, 1995

U.S. Release Date:

1995-04-07

Running Length:

1:59

MPAA Classification:

R (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Situations)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

2.35:1

Cast:

Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Tea Leoni, Tcheky Karyo, Theresa Randle, Joe Pantoliano

Director:

Michael Bay

Screenplay:

Michael Barrie, Jim Mulholland, and Doug Richardson

Cinematography:

Howard Atherton

Music:

Mark Mancina

U.S. Distributor:

Columbia Pictures

Subtitles:

none


48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop, and Lethal Weapon were all, to some extent, reasonably entertaining action films. The unavoidable result of their success has been a long string of sequels and rip-offs. The latest is Bad Boys, an overlong sample of MTV-style direction that "borrows" heavily from these (and numerous other) flicks, and, in the process, elevates them to the comparable level of Citizen Kane.

The action sequences -- and there are a lot of them -- are apparently designed to camouflage the lack of a credible story. I suppose someone guessed that if the audience was too busy following bullets, bodies, and explosions, they wouldn't have time to wonder about things like logic and coherence. Unfortunately, the movie contains occasional moments of inactivity and, during those, the first thing that comes to mind is: What's the point? After asking the question a few times, it becomes clear that not only are things moving fast, but they're completely out of control. Consider what happens to a downhill skier or race car in this situation, and you get an idea of what Bad Boys has to offer.

When it came to putting ideas on paper, the writers had a beginning (a drug heist from the Miami P.D.'s evidence safe) and an ending (guess what happens to the bad guys). They also had a premise: take a couple of mismatched cops who hide their respect for each other, and team them with a female civilian/witness who is destined to prove her worth, but only after botching things a few times. No, it's not original, but it's the only glue that holds this production together, even if it is spread far too thin. Because outside of these few basics from script writing 101, no thought was put into the screenplay for Bad Boys.

The cops, Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey, are played by TV sitcom stars Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. For reasons too silly to explain, they're forced to swap identities whenever they're with a murder witness (Tea Leoni). If there ever was comic potential in this unnecessarily contrived situation, it's not realized. I think Three's Company may have done the same thing, only better. Much better.

Smith and Lawrence are likable, and they have a certain modest chemistry that surfaces during the so-called "humorous" banter, but everything about their characters is a regurgitation of previously recycled material. (Does that make it re-recycled?) The other characters are equally familiar: the tough female sidekick, the loyal wife (Theresa Randle), the evil drug lord (Tcheky Karyo), and the loud-mouthed police captain (Joe Pantoliano).

The most complimentary thing I can say about Bad Boys is that it has style and energy. The cinematography is frequently inventive, and Mark Mancini's Speed-like score is the perfect accompaniment for chases and fights. Unfortunately, there's only so far a movie can go on loud music, nicely-framed shots, testosterone, and adrenaline. Bad Boys takes the often-traveled road, and leads the audience to a dead end.





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