BAD BOYS Blu-ray Review

     July 3, 2010

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At this point Michael Bay is undeniable. Having weathered parody, Pearl Harbor and Megan Fox, Michael Bay seems to know who he is and what he can do… At least it seems that way for now. Perhaps he’ll go back to making his Oscar picture at some point, though I don’t know what Bay could make that would be his Schindler’s List or Titanic.  But when he arrived in 1995, Bay was the second coming of Tony Scott, and Bad Boys was a breath of fresh recycled air. At the time, R-rated action was had become self-serious, and stars like Stallone and Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal took their jobs very seriously. Here was something more in the classic “buddy cop” mold. Bay teamed Will Smith with Martin Lawrence as cops after drugs and criminals in Miami, and it clicked with audiences, launching one of the more fascinating Hollywood careers of late. And my review of Bad Boys on Blu-ray after the jump.

Seriously, though, why the hell isn’t Bad Boys 2 also available? I guess the cult following of that film – spearheaded by Edgar Wright and the rest of the Hot Fuzz gang – hasn’t caught on yet. Too bad. Michael Bay’s first film was done for a pittance of what he normally works with, and you can see that the Bay feel was already in full force at this point. Basically, he watched Top Gun five million times, and it shows. But even working within limited means, Bay gets what he wants out of the material, and his command of making this sort of film shows.

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Mike Lowery (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are detectives and partners for the Miami PD. When one of Marcus’s ladyfriends is killed by bad guys, the only witness is Julie Mott (Tea Leoni), who then – in a mistaken identity bit – is told that Burnett is Lowery, which leads Martin Lawrence to pretend to be the cocksman rich-kid Lowery, while Will Smith plays (sorta) the domesticated Burnett. The bad guy is played by Tcheky Karyo in the era where Euro trash was the bad-guy default, and Joe Pantoliano is their upset captain.

Bad Boys reveals both the strengths and weakness of Michael Bay in his first film. Bay has always been a man who cares more about a scene or a sequence than the whole, and though the film works, there’s never much of a central mystery or too much interest in the plot – it’s not taken too seriously, which works for the movie. The film is more focused on turning Will Smith into a movie star, and there’s no arguing with Bay when he says that the sequence where Smith runs down a street with his shirt open whilst unloading his gun is the moment Smith ditched the Fresh Prince and became the Will Smith we know today. It’s a film of postures, and it’s why Michael Bay got tagged as a music video/commercial kid (he was), and the completely commercial aesthetic is why he was quickly nicknamed “Satan” by his detractors. But citing that this film is shallow misses the point. Bay stages sequences well, and understand the concept of jokes well enough to have moments that are funny, but – as would be revealed by his later work – his sense of comedy is juvenile at best, even with professional ringers.

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This is one of his better films, in that it’s short and it gets what it is and delivers. Though the plotting is easily the weakest element of the movie, the characters do come across well, and Tea Leoni has never looked more attractive on screen. It’s an eager movie, but the sequel is truly the better film.

Sony’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound. I’m sure Bay approved the transfer, and there’s nothing to complain about here, it looks and sounds excellent. This is just a transfer upgrade, as it features all the same supplements as the last special edition. There’s a commentary by Bay, which he tries to sound self-effacing, and a thirty minute behind the scenes piece. The total of this gives you a sense of the making of the picture, and though Bay has an ego bigger than his last Transformers budget, he does do a good job detailing what it was like to make the movie. There are also three music videos and bonus trailers.

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