Bad Boys (1995)
Written by Michael Barrie, Jim Mulholland, and Doug Richardson
Directed by Michael Bay
At this point in my life, I have seen five Michael Bay films, and I can confidently say that I hate him and his stupid movies. The only way to enjoy a Bay picture is to literally become braindead and not process films beyond the surface level. He’s like is a pile of cocaine that became sentient, frenzied & overconfident but ultimately lacking in any substance. I get why a picture like this one might have wowed audiences. In 1995, this style of filmmaking was brand new. He was taking a genre that wore out its welcome in the 1980s, the buddy cop movie, and injecting it with a more contemporary vibe. You have two Black lead actors as the heroes which wasn’t happening in big-budget film then. There is so much here that feels fresh, but when you go beyond that immediate feeling, you find a picture mired in old-fashioned misogyny and unfunny attempts at jokes.
Miami cops Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) are investigating the theft of $100 million in heroin stolen out of the evidence vault in their precinct. Internal Affairs suspects the criminals had help on the inside and have given the detectives five days to find out what’s going on. Meanwhile, one of the men involved hires two escorts, one of whom, Julie (Téa Leoni) witnesses her friend get murdered when the rest of the cartel shows up to tie up loose ends. Julie demands only to work with Lowrey, a mutual friend of her murdered fellow escort; however, due to extenuating circumstances, Burnett has to pretend to be Lowrey. Things play out…stupidly.
The first thing is that Bad Boys is way too long, clocking in at two hours for a story that only needed ninety minutes at most. Nothing about this story is compelling enough to warrant the long runtime. The villains are paper-thin, almost non-existent, plot device machines to create action set pieces that our heroes can quip during. By the end of the movie, I remembered almost nothing about the lead criminal other than he had a French accent. Most of the personality in the picture has been put into our heroes, which isn’t a bad idea. How does that work out?
Will Smith is a hilarious and charismatic actor, Martin Lawrence is pretty funny though a little on the nose for my taste. This should make for a fantastic duo, and there are moments where they escape the gravitational pull of this abysmal script to be funny. When the writers keep giving them sitcom level scenarios to stumble through, we get the movie at its worst. With comedy, you want the joke to be introduced and developed, especially if you keep bringing it up throughout the picture. For example, because of the mixed-up identities, Burnett has to stay at Lowrey’s bachelor pad, and Lowrey is sleeping on the couch at Burnett’s suburban home with his family. Burnett keeps getting paranoid that Lowrey is sleeping with his wife. That’s the joke. They just keep slapping that button over and over.
Women in this movie, as are women in almost every Bay film, are treated like utter trash. They are either whores or harping shrews. There is literally no other option. Burnett’s entire character is centered around what a put upon husband he is to his unreasonable wife. His kids have ended their sex life, and his job keeps him from getting home after they’ve gone to sleep to get some. A smaller level antagonist in the film is Internal Affairs, as represented by a “meddling woman.” Of course, in all copaganda movies, IA doesn’t exist to stop police abuses but to hinder cops who are trying to save the day from dirtbags that don’t deserve Constitutional protections. The guys’ boss tells them he’ll cover for them as they violate citizens’ rights because stopping these criminals from selling the stole heroin is more important than civil liberties. I think Bay is a perfect fascist filmmaker, the modern-day Leni Riefenstahl. His work is devoid of substance, just images & symbols of cliched prejudice wrapped in a deceptively fresh paint job.