Bad Boys is movie that signals a change in the action movie genre. Released in 1995, it’s a film that showcases set pieces and slick production values more than it does the physical prowess of its stars. Bad Boys was huge and after it hit, it seemed like anybody could be an action star. Sure, it owes a lot to films like 48 Hours, Lethal Weapon, and Beverly Hills Cop, but Bad Boys was its own thing without a doubt. It’s bigger; a movie that can only be described by the word “blockbuster.” Bad Boys was the trumpet sounding in a new era, the era of Michael Bay.
Bad Boys started as a script called Bulletproof Hearts. Originally, Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz were attached to the project, but things fell through and the movie was reworked and rewritten. Let that sink in for a moment; Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey were almost the stars of Michael Bay’s Bad Boys. That’s a hard notion to wrap your head around. Surely it wouldn’t have been the same movie, it’s clear that the version of Bad Boys we ended up with was built around its stars, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith.
The plot is fairly generic; two very different cops who are also partners get caught up in a race against time to stop some bad guys from making the drug deal of the century. We’d seen it before and we’ve seen it since, but we had never experienced it like Bad Boys. There is something unique about Bad Boys. It moves faster than other, similar movies. Its lead actors are clearly having fun the entire time. Michael Bay is said to have encouraged Lawrence and Smith to improvise and that’s easy to believe. Their laughs and smiles feel genuine. When Lawrence says “I love you, man” to Smith, you believe him.
The slick, explosive action of this movie is something we associate – for better or worse – with director Michael Bay these days. He’s a name brand; when you see Michael Bay attached to a movie you know what you’re going to get. He’s often trashed, blamed for “ruining people’s childhoods,” and other ridiculous claims. Sure, the criticisms leveled at Bay are more than fair, especially when you look at the stuff he’s churning out nowadays, but there was a time when we were excited about a new Michael Bay film. Bad Boys, The Rock, and Armageddon, that’s a trifecta of movies that you can’t deny. Bigger than life, melodramatic, and just the right amount of silly, there’s no doubt Michael Bay made some fun flicks.
The action in Bad Boys is huge. Every gunshot sounds like it’s fired from a freaking cannon. Walls explode, cars rev with the intensity of a jet engine, while fire and debris rain down on everything. I remember the first time I saw the movie; its final action scene mesmerized me. It felt like the biggest thing I had ever scene, an orgy of blood and fire. There are exploding barrels everywhere and every stray bullet seems to strike something that is primed to burst and belch fire across the screen. It’s beautiful.
Of course you can’t talk about how great Bad Boys is without talking about the cast. Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are a buddy cop duo dream team. What Lawrence lacks in action prowess he more than makes up for in presence and comedic timing. Smith is equally funny, but it’s clear when watching this movie that he is a superstar. Add is some excellent supporting performances from Joe Pantoliano, Tea Leoni, and Tcheky Karyo and you have one hell of a good time. It’s fun from start to finish, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
If you go back and watch action movies from the 80s and 90s, plenty of them will feel dated. Bad Boys doesn’t. Even to this day, Bad Boys looks and moves like a modern Hollywood blockbuster. The genre would eventually become a watered-down shadow of its former self, but Bad Boys was just the right mixture of old and new. It’s a hardcore, R rated action movie dressed up in a trappings of big summer event picture. It’s rare that we get movies like this anymore, most are cut down to PG-13 or bathed in a sea of CGI. For a time though, R rated action movies ruled the Earth, and Michael Bay was their king.