[box cover]

Bad Boys: Special Edition

Columbia Tristar Home Video

Starring Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, and Téa Leoni,

Directed by Michael Bay


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Review by D. K. Holm                    


For some inexplicable reason, Téa Leoni is David Duchovny's wife rather then my girlfriend. This is unfair, as I have been following her career devotedly since the bad Fox sitcom Flying Blind. In that show she was the kooky girl with outlandish clothes and a skindiver's watch whom a nice respectable Jewish boy falls for, sort of an Ur-Dharma and Greg. She seems to be what ethnic showbiz types view as the perfect American girl, with her thin-yet-fit silhouette, superb bone structure, and riveting eyes. Her pre-Duchovny apotheosis was as the the intractable girl witness in the Michael Bay-directed Bad Boys from 1995, when the $23 million movie made $65 million in the U. S. and $165 million worldwide. That she is more suited to comedy than drama is one of the reasons she is successful in this rather minor effort than in high profile serious films such as the misguided Deep Impact.

An all-black Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys is the film that introduced the aesthetic of Michael Bay to the masses and helped make stars of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. It's probably also a textbook example of the Simpson-Bruckheimer approach to filmmaking. It comes as something of a surprise to see that Simpson produced only 12 films. His impact on filmmaking is out of proportion to the number of movies he made. Yet it is a measure of their iconic cultural impact that he and Bruckheimer, in revivifying the summer blockbuster, created a new, loud, fast, rock-video-influenced style of film from Flashdance on.

The script of Bad Boys credited to Michael Barrie, Jim Mulholland, Doug Richardson, and George Gallo, follows a familiar pattern seen in lots of TV cop shows, and too many movies, from Narrow Margin to Fair Game to the remake of Shaft. Téa Leoni is the sole surviving witness of a hit in which her best friend was killed, and two buddy cops have to protect her. The killers are led by Tcheky Karyo (who makes a great villain). He has masterminded the robbery of the Miami Police Department's seized drugs, some $100 million bucks worth, and plans to turn them around quickly with the aid of some chemistry geeks. But first, for some reason not really explained, he desperately needs to seize (but not execute) Téa. This is where the Miami Vice-like Smith and Lawrence come in. Smith is the playboy, Lawrence the family man. But Téa will only talk to Smith, who was a friend of her murdered pal. When she calls the police station, Smith and Lawrence's boss forces Lawrence to pretend to be Smith just to get the witness into custody. This subplot, which is probably what sold it to the executives, is the least satisfying aspect of the movie. A lot of time is spent on the "comedy" of Smith and Lawrence's switched identities, but it's an unwieldy device planted right in the middle of an otherwise fast-paced, perhaps too-fast-paced, film.

In the final analysis, Bad Boys is a collection of tired cop-show devices, such as the witness inevitably getting kidnapped by the villains, the yelling police captain, the good guy standing trembling over the finally defeated villain with his gun pointed at the guy's chest and the partner saying, "Hey, it's not worth it." Bad Boys also has an obligatory disco scene, even with a broken fish tank. The movie also sports a perpetual pollution haze imposed on the top of the frames throughout much of the film. And Basil Exposition would enjoy Téa's first long speech in the film. Parts of Bad Boys are amusing (I think this was the first movie to have a Driving Miss Daisy gag), and Smith and Lawrence work well together, but the film is really just an amusement machine. Only Téa's presence renders it slightly above the usual muck of summer kiss-kiss gangbangs, for one slavish viewer at least.

This is the collector's version of a DVD originally released in 1997, according to the IMDB. It's a 1.85:1 transfer, digitally remastered, but from a scratchy print during the beginning seconds, and comes in Dolby Digital 5.1 in English and Spanish. A Bad Boys 2 has been announced, which may be one reason for the appearance of this film in a new DVD version, but the extra features are somewhat out of proportion to the film's achievement. Among them are a pretty good audio commentary by Michael Bay (he takes after his alleged father, John Frankenheimer, in this regard), a new documentary about the making of the film, three (rather poor) music videos connected to the music track, an isolated music track, and a feature called "Damage Control," which isn't explained very well, but which seems to be test shots of special effects involving gunshots and car-explosions, and which utilizes the multi-angle feature to mildly satisfying effect. Keep-case.

— D. K. Holm



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