Bad Boys (1995) / Action-Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for strong violence and pervasive strong language
Running Time: 118 min.

Cast: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Tea Leoni, Tcheky Karyo, Theresa Randle
Director: Michael Bay

Screenplay: Michael Barrie, Jim Mulholland, Doug Richardson
Review published January 10, 1998

Bad Boys is a movie at odds with itself. The part of it that tries to be a comedy is a smashing success, with Martin Lawrence (Boomerang, House Party 2) at his best, delivering line after funny line amid a case of switched identities. The two leads work well together, and have a genuine chemistry that is very fun to watch. The part of the film that tries to be an action vehicle is routinely mediocre, with lackluster villains and an uninteresting plot.

That plot happens shortly after Miami detectives Burnett (Lawrence) and Lowery (Smith, Independence Day) take down one of the biggest drug busts in history, only to discover that the evidence has been stolen from the evidence room. The ruthless men who took the heroin begin killing people to cover their tracks, but an eyewitness (Leoni, Flirting with Disaster) escapes. She has witnessed her best friend, who is also one of Lowery's girlfriends, killed in cold blood and will only deal with him, fearing for her safety. Family man Burnett, Lowery's partner, assumes Lowery's identity, leading a double life of trying to play the manly playboy Lowery is while the real Lowery takes care of matters in Burnett's home. They discover they have only three days to stop the exchange of drugs and take down the murderers.

There is just enough entertainment to be gained through the Lawrence/Smith interaction to give Bad Boys a marginal recommendation, but it's unfortunate they could not have been in a production that sported a better script than the one they have here. First-time director Michael Bay (who later went on to direct the equally noisy The Rock, Armageddon and Pearl Harbor) shows he should drop any pretension to be a big-time director and concentrate on his real talent: cinematography. Bad Boys is a good looking film, but needlessly overwrought in the style department, and the fast cutting style and extreme close-up of its director lends for claustrophobic and artificially frenetic viewing. Lawrence and Smith are great to watch together, but the plot eventually rears it's ugly head and almost ruins the fun.

-- Followed by Bad Boys 2 (2003)

Qwipster's rating:

2001 Vince Leo