With a roar of a ridiculously high tuned engine and a sky the colour of rich bronze, Will Smith, Martin Lawrence and Michael Bay aggressively gear changed into our lives with Bad Boys, a 1995 offering from super producers Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson.
The duo was already know for mining young talent and high concept scripts into mega blockbusting juggernauts that move with all the unstoppable mania of a full blown cocaine addiction (looking at you Simpson…) so when they scooped up stand up comedian Martin Lawrence and paired him with the Fresh Prince himself something definitely was gonna happen.
While some may see Bad Boys as the beginning of Will Smith’s complete and utter domination of Hollywood in the latter half of the nineties, others may see it as the beginning to the road to many scandals (not to mention Black Knight) for Lawrence and others yet may see it as ground zero for the many cinematic atrocities that Michael Bay launched from a zillion multiplexes over the years, but whatever you may think of Bad Boys, it simply doesn’t give much of a shit about your opinion.
A daring raid on a Miami police station by incredibly professional criminals, led by the cold blooded and very French Fouchet, results in the theft of a stack of seized drugs the size of a Kaiju testicle (so about a week’s worth for Don Simpson, then). Internal affairs assume that a job this size had to have been an inside job and give the chief (a very screamy Joe Pantolino) and extremely tight deadline to solve the case before they descend an shut the precinct down so it up to star detectives Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) and Mike Lowery (Smith) to solve this shit so everyone gets to keep their jobs. As the bodies begin piling up, their luck sort of changes with the appearance of Julie (a VERY put upon Teá Leoni who entertainingly gives as good as she gets), a witness who narrowly escapes with her life after spying the gang offing both a loose end and her best friend. However, spooked by all the bullet flying, Julie will only turn herself into Mike but as he isn’t around and scared that the witness will walk, Marcus has to pretend to be his partner to get her to talk. The mix up is made even worse when Marcus, a short tempered family man, has to keep the charade up as far as living with Julie in Mike’s apartment and Mike, a womanizer of some renown, has to live at the Marcus residence.
As the stress and pressure of the case builds and Marcus gets ever more paranoid that Mike has become Mr. Steal Your Wife, the ludicrous facade begins to crack and eventually Fouchet and his assorted gang of thugs tracks Julie down, the stage is set for gun fights, dead bodies and a handful of slow motion pans as silk shirts flap in the wind.
Obviously, considering the players involved, this film is beyond ridiculous – Marcus and Burnett are no more detectives who figure out the case than they are dangerous, car-crashing thugs who put countless lives in danger thanks to their horrifically cavalier attitude to police work. However, they are REALLY fucking funny while they’re doing it so if you can’t check your disbelief at the door then what the Hell are you even doing here? The Smith/Lawrence double act is frankly irresistible as the characters are irresponsible and their alpha male back and forth is almost like they took Eddie Murphy from Beverley Hills Cop, split him into two and upped the body count. Straight from the off, with a pre-credit scene that has them arguing about Marcus dropping fries in Mike’s flash car (“a shiny dick with two chairs in it”) that spirals into them beating the shit out of a couple of carjackers, we are propelled through the preposterous story on the sheer combined charisma of the two leads, their constant bickering constantly hilarious if not exactly PC (the director would deliberately trigger Lawrence’s sense of machismo and then film whatever burst forth). But then, being PC was never really in Michael Bay’s toolbox; what IS in his toolbox, however, is a visual style that takes what Tony Scott had done on movies like Beverley Hills Cop 2 and The Last Boy Scout and shoots it up with PCP. Shafts of light everywhere, golden sunsets 24 hours a day, irresponsible bloodletting, whispy drapes, scantily clad women and a hanger explosion that probably be seen from space are strewn about the film like unwashed clothes in a teenager’s bedroom but it fits the film perfectly. And remember, this is still a Michael Bay who actually had to answer to people, so he has a confident – if not exactly tight – grip on the characters and story slinging in a fight, car chase or the odd Lawrence rant when things start to drag.
Although, interestingly, this was originally intended as a vehicle for Lawrence, it’s obviously Smith who emerges as the true Hollywood star he rapidly became as he runs around Miami with his shirt unbuttoned waving a gun about and history counts down the years until he right hooked an alien in the face in Independence Day and became a mega star.
Fast, loud, obnoxious and brilliantly so, Bad Boys was the opening salvo for Bruckheimer to conquer the summer season for years to come (sadly Simpson died of an overdose about a year later) with such big budget boomfests as The Rock, Con Air, Armageddon and… well, maybe not Pearl Harbour but you get my point.
Movie snobs may rail at such testosterone fueled antics but it’s essentially big kids playing cops and robbers with toy guns and yelling “pew-pew” at each other (it certainly has a 6-year-old’s perspective on proper police procedure) just only projected onto the big screen. They don’t really make movies like this any more and maybe in the big picture that’s a good thing (a film called Bad Boys is hardly going to pass the Bechdel test) but this movie has always been a mischievous love of mine and will alway continue to be so.
These Bad Boys are actually pretty damn good…