While not in the least bit original, Bad Boys is a rather solid entry in the buddy cop genre of films. Every cliché in the book is here, but it really doesn’t matter because (1) the chemistry between the two leads is fantastic, (2) the energy of the film and the filmmakers is electric and (3) the action beats are perfectly serviceable and are effective because of points 1 and 2. A fresh story would just be the icing on the cake, and would be what takes the film to the next level.
The two cops are Marcus and Mike (Martin Lawrence and Will Smith, respectively), the former being a family man and the other a committed bachelor. This allows for some banter between the two and also a very odd, silly diversion involving Mike living with Marcus’ family and Marcus assuming that Mike is cheating on him with his wife, despite the pair being partners for the last six years and friends for life. It really doesn’t work, and it added nothing to the film. They have to switch identities in order to keep a murder witness, Julie (Téa Leoni), safe, and the reason for that is too ridiculous to even being to explain.
Indeed, there is a murder. First, there is a theft. A $100 million heroin bust is the target, meaning that it had to be someone on the inside, working for the cops. How else would criminals break into a police station. Did I mention it was $100 million worth of drugs? That’s an incredible amount. And while I’m not saying it should be more of a focus than a human life … it kind of gets forgotten about after the murder. What’s up with that?
Okay, so one of the cops asks an informant, Max (Karen Alexander), to try to find out who stole that amount of heroin. She winds up dead, so both Marcus and Mike — along with Julie, who becomes like a sidekick — swear to bring her killer to justice, and also get back the drugs, assuming they remember to do so. I get that the vengeance-type story is more personal and emotional than recovering the drugs, but to almost completely ignore that part is unbelievable.
Stop me if these plot points sound familiar. There is an angry police chief (Joe Pantoliano) who yells a lot. There’s a woman from Internal Affairs (Marg Helgenberger) who wants to ruin all the fun. There’s a wife who may or may not want trust her husband, but will eventually stay with him even though he constantly lies to her (Theresa Randle), spoiler alert. The police officers frequently argue with one another because they have very different personalities. There is a car chase (this one ruins a Shelby Cobra, which is the film’s biggest crime). And so on.
There’s nothing original about Bad Boys. That’s okay. It succeeds because it’s got an energetic approach to the material. It is probably over-edited, but that’s okay because it makes the film feel relentlessly paced. Working with first time director Michael Bay, cinematographer Howard Atherton is inventive behind the camera. The score perfectly accompanies the action scenes. If you need a film to pump you up before a sporting event or something of the sort, this one might do the job.
It also contains a couple of easy-going performances from two sitcom actors. Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are funny people, and their back-and-forth dialogue makes up a lot of the film. In fact, some scenes appear to exist just to allow them to talk at one another. It rarely does anything for plot or character, but sometimes you can appreciate a couple of smart people arguing back and forth about things that really don’t matter. It is eventually irritating but in small bursts, it can work to a film’s advantage.
From these exchanges of dialogue is where some of Bad Boy’s humor is derived. This isn’t a straight-up comedy, but there are some points when it decides it needs to keep the mood light. And considering that its two leads are comedians, this makes sense. Allowing them to ad-lib and just try to be funny can be an effective technique. There is also some situational comedy, because there are times in the film when the two leads shut up — although these moments are infrequent.
Where it falters is in its lack of originality and serviceable, yet ultimately unspectacular action scenes, the worst of which serves as the film’s climax. Right as we should be getting ready to see a spectacular finale, we’re given kind of a dud. All of the energy and enthusiasm in the world — of which there is plenty for most of the movie’s duration — can’t hide what is a letdown of a conclusion. It is also where the aforementioned Shelby Cobra is totaled, which is a crime no matter when it happens and for whatever cause.
I hesitate to call Bad Boys a good movie or even something that’s worth seeing, but as an adrenaline-fueled experience filled with inventive cinematography, in-your-face editing, charismatic leads, enjoyable banter and a plot you’ve seen dozens of times before — well, it certainly is just that. It’s not original and the action scenes are nothing special, but the film isn’t a boring watch and I can’t say there was much I disliked about seeing it. Bad Boys just might be worth a viewing.