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After a pair of overproduced duds that include the back-to-back Tony Scott eye-burners Beverly Hills Cop II and Days of Thunder, the uber-producing team of Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer make a welcome return to the kind of no-holds-barred, go-for-the-throat thrill ride that established them as action experts extraordinaire in the mid-1980s. Setting aside any pretensions, Bad Boys is what it is. Viewers can either understand that or direct themselves to a more ambitious action blockbuster. Like the standard action films of the early 90’s, Bad Boys has no problem with being a super-slick, super-fast cops-and-drug lords movie that viewers will probably forget by the time they exit the theater.
The plot resembles that of a cheesy episode of “Miami Vice,” complete with said drug lords, the fiery orange heat of the Miami setting, and enough running and jumping to exhaust even Bruce Willis. In keeping with true buddy-movie formula, Miami narcotics cops Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) both lead very different lives. Lowery is a womanizing rich-kid who also happens to be a dedicated police officer. His partner and best friend, Burnett, is an overworked, undersexed family man with a pretty wife (Theresa Randle) and three kids. Both have just made the biggest drug bust of their careers, confiscating $100 million in heroin. But when a criminal mastermind (Tchéky Karyo) steals the evidence from police storage and Internal Affairs threatens to shut them down, Lowrey and Burnett must find a witness (Téa Leoni) who can help them solve the case. The catch? Lowrey and Burnett must switch identities to gain the witness’ trust.
A more appropriate name for Bad Boys would actually be Beverly Hills Cop Lite. Both this and Cop are Bruckheimer/Simpson productions that feature a savvy African-American Police Officer (in this case, two) investigating the murder of a close friend who is somehow linked to an underground drug ring. While it retains some of the action and wise-guy humor of the Eddie Murphy classic, it also lacks the nuisances and intelligence that made that film so memorable.
Lawrence and Smith are, however, in fine (albeit not exactly star-making) form. The interaction between the wisecracking duo is so smooth and displays such a good chemistry, it’s as if they’ve done all this before. Since the film opens with the two of them jabbering away, you get the idea that they started during a previous adventure. The interesting note about the casting is that both of the leads play the “wise guy.” We see how different they are through how they use their sense of humor. The switch even takes a stab (no doubt, unintended) at making a social statement about people adapting to a completely new lifestyle.
The real star here is Director Michael Bay. Bay (who cut his teeth directing high-octane television commercials and music videos) treats every action sequence like a photographed stage production. He keeps the camera moving swiftly enough to generate excitement, but stops shy of inducing nausea. Working closely with the editor, Bay favors frequent cuts, but without falsifying the sense of excitement generated. This talent for staging good action is displayed mostly in a getaway chase around halfway through the film and the exciting climax that features a shootout in an airport hangar. A fantastic shot that I feel is worth singling out comes at the end of the getaway chase when Lowrey and Burnett rise from the aftermath in a shot that circles around the heroes as they look on to see the villains get away. This wonderful method tells the viewers what they must face in the best dramatic fashion possible.
Even though the story heats up towards the end, Bad Boys will probably dribble out of my memory by next Tuesday. It is highly entertaining but ridiculously forgettable. How I managed to conjure up this much text based on a movie I can barely remember is beyond me.