Sunday, December 4, 2016

Bad Boys

   It was 1995, 21 years ago, and Martin Lawrence was the box office draw here- not Will Smith, who at the time hadn't yet starred in Men in Black or Independence Day. Surreal thought isn't it? As Michael Bay's first big movie, I've often cited Bad Boys as a highlight of Bay's career because by no means is it as bad as some of his later efforts, but how would this buddy cop movie hold up after all this time? The answer? Well... there's no clear cut one. It's plain to see though that Bad Boys is a definite mixed bag.

   Getting right to the point, Bad Boys definitely wanted to be the Lethal Weapon of the 90's. It never stood a chance. It's a fun movie, sure, but it's not a particularly good one. Smith and Lawrence have adequate chemistry, but their pairing should be a hell of a lot funnier than it ends up being. I blame everyone but them. Bay, possibly. The script isn't up to snuff either. Too much of the movie spends time on this stupid switcheroo subplot where a scared material witness (Tea Leoni) is led to believe that Lawrence's character, Marcus, is actually his partner, Mike Lowrey (Will Smith). It's tragically unfunny, and when it does work, it's thanks solely to Lawrence's comedic timing.

   There' also simply not enough action to distract from the boring plot and unfunny hijinks. When there is action, it's great, but Bad Boys spends too much time trying to be humorous and it generally always backfires. When a movie about ruthless drug dealers keeps taking detours to focus on Lawrence's marital issues, you know you've got issues on your hands. There's some mind numbingly bad scenes here, but again, there's something irresistibly charismatic about the duo and the movie itself. They fight more than they get along, but when they do click, it's dynamite. Same goes for Bad Boys itself. It's at odds with itself far more than it should be, but when it works, hot damn does it work.

   Bay's kinetic style lends a lot to this cop thriller which would be fairly routine without him behind the camera. The perfect balance lies somewhere between this one and it's sequel, which is baytastic excess in the extreme. I don't know which I prefer, but if you're popping one of these movies in just for the action, you'd probably be more satisfied with Bad Boys II, which in turn gave us one of the funniest gags in the classic Hot Fuzz. I enjoyed Bad Boys, but not half as much as I wanted to. When things kick off though, it's a lot of fun, but the intermissions between the action are entirely skippable. Smith and Lawrence certainly aren't Gibson and Glover, and they needed to carve out their own thing. Having them separated for 70% of the probably wasn't the best way to do that.

   Tea Leoni is a highlight of the movie, being the most grounded character in the script. Also worth pointing out is Joe Pantoliano as the police captain, and he's excellent in the role. A true poster boy for high blood pressure medicine, as all cinematic police captains should be. The villain is also pretty sinister. I had a smile on my face by the time the credits rolled, and I guess that's all that really matters. It's a ridiculous movie that deserved to work more than it ultimately did, but if you're a fan of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, you'll get your money's worth out of the set pieces that Bad Boys offers up.

   I really can't say I didn't enjoy it, but holy hell is it a hot mess. I'm sure this was more of a crowd pleaser in it's theatrical run, but it doesn't hold up so well after 21 years. Parts of it are a blast, and like I've said, other parts just do NOT work. I guess mileage may vary. It's an easy guilty pleasure for some, a classic for others, and then some people absolutely hate it. I think I'm in the first category. There's nothing really preventing Bad Boys from being a carefree Friday night rental. If only Blockbuster Video was still around, the nostalgia trip would be complete.

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