Bad Boys (1995)
Release Date: April 7th, 1995 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Michael Bay Actors: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Tcheky Karyo, Joe Pantoliano, Tea Leoni, Marg Helgenberger, Michael Imperioli, Nestor Serrano
150 million of dope is stolen from a high-security police facility (surveilled by a single sleepy guard) by a group of professionals, fully equipped with state-of-the-art, hi-tech bank-robbery gear. Two hip Miami cops are put on the case by their loud-mouthed, expletive-spewing, narcotics division captain Conrad Howard (Joe Pantoliano), even as the DEA and FBI get involved, certain to leave the lowly police force as a scapegoat for the presumed inside job. Mike Lowery (Will Smith) is the sports-car-driving, take-charge, smooth talking, playboy officer, while Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) is the high-strung, family-man sergeant. They’re a lot like “Lethal Weapon’s” Riggs and Murtaugh, but without the funny contrasts or smart chemistry. Though some of their conversations are genuinely funny, many fall noticeably flat.
To compliment the heroic partners are a slew of antagonists, all of who wear hideous grimaces permanently and aren’t afraid to use sledgehammers to assassinate witnesses. The band of thieves is led by Fouchet (Tcheky Karyo), a man supposedly so intelligent that he can mastermind a complex heist – yet he employs an irrational ex-cop henchman who immediately throws a celebratory party for himself, complete with a couple of hookers. One is a good friend of Lowery’s, while the other is her roommate Julie Mott (Tea Leoni), a gullible woman who poses as a prostitute for some extra cash – and the only one to make it out of the festivities alive.
She’s now a much-needed witness and the only link to Fouchet and his drug lab, which is rapidly working to resolve a moisture problem and cut the illicit materials. Julie initially demands to speak only with Mike, which leads to Marcus assuming his identity when the slicker detective is nowhere to be found. The role switching adds jokes but also adds to the ridiculousness, further decreasing any chance at realism. It also doesn’t help that Leoni seems to deliver every one of her lines with an unconsciously quivering lip, as if she’s terrified to speak the words.
A bassy rock beat accompanies almost every scene, including those with random acts of violence, various transitions, introductions to witty banter, and strolls through the police station. It’s noticeable, obnoxious, and completely unnecessary. To top off the outmoded yet groovier segments of the score are strings of dated melodramatic riffs that accompany times of tragedy and mourning. It’s as if “Bad Boys” is trying too hard to be alternatingly cool and poignant and definitely wants viewers to know it. The editing is also odd, with shots fading to black, slowed motion during non-action-oriented moments (Will Smith running with open shirt during decelerated frames is preposterously anticlimactic and definitely not for the heterosexual crowd), unimportant flashbacks, and cuts that end abruptly. Cameras frequently moving in circles around the duo as they stand in macho poses with guns drawn also drastically add to the silliness.
But the technical problems are insignificant next to the dialogue issues, which occasionally distract from story inconsistencies. When bit part background thugs are given time to curse at each other, a desk clerk gets a monologue to discuss his career, and Julie opts to talk to herself while handcuffed to a steering wheel, it’s evident that the screenplay is trying to create filler material. Countless other sequences dwell on inconsequential conversations for much too long – just to throw in an extra one-liner joke. Fortunately, the harsh bickering, biting wisecracking, and full-blown arguing between the police captain, Lowery, Burnett, and various other supporting roles are hilarious enough to keep the pace marginally amusing.
A few of the action setups are also cleverly blended with humor, including a fistfight at Club Hell and a good-cop/bad-cop routine in a tire shop. The general level of gung-ho theatrics performed by each of the cops (as well as the backup and the captain) is pitiful, however, especially when Smith and Lawrence are coached into screaming their lines to mask the lack of real intensity. “Bad Boys” attempts to be both an actioner and a comedy, but only intermittently succeeds with the laughs; goofy editing and misplaced dialogue thoroughly dull every second of adventure.
– Mike Massie