Bad Boys (Blu-ray)
Film Length: 119 min.
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Codec: AVC
Audio: English, French, Portuguese DTS-HD MA 5.1; Spanish DD 5.1
Subtitles: English; English SDH; French; Spanish; Portuguese
Disc Format: 1 50 GB
Theatrical Release Date: Aug. 7, 1995
Blu-ray Release Date: June 1, 2010
Pop quiz! Michael Bay’s first feature film is:
- a sign of the Apocalypse
- a good movie
- who’s Michael Bay?
- a historical curiosity
- a guilty pleasure
If you answered (1), you have many friends here. If you answered (2), you’re in for a world of hurt; put on a flame-retardant suit immediately. If you answered (3), you win this year’s Rip Van Winkle Award; take it and go back to sleep. If you answered (4), stop playing it safe! Remember: no guts, no glory.
If you answered (5), you’re my kind of viewer.
Detectives Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowery (Will Smith) are partners in the narcotics division of the Miami police department. Burnett is a harried family man with four children and a take-charge wife, Theresa (Theresa Randle, underused). Lowery is a smooth-talking bachelor with an inheritance that lets him afford a Porsche, a great apartment and an active social life – but his real passion is police work. As is required of all buddy-cop pairings, Lowery and Burnett bicker constantly, except when they’re taking down bad guys or jointly being hassled by their boss, Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano, at full volume).
Burnett and Lowery are about to have a bad week. A gang that’s far too well informed stages a precision raid on a police evidence locker and makes off with $100 million worth of uncut heroin from a “career bust” credited to Lowery and Burnett. Internal Affairs, in the person of Captain Sinclair (Marg Helgenberger), suspects an inside job and threatens to close down the entire division if the dope isn’t recovered promptly.
The gang responsible for the theft was assembled by a cold-blooded Frenchman named Fouchet (the wonderful Tchéky Karyo, who was the silken spymaster “Bob” in Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita). The cops catch a break when one of Fouchet’s crew can’t resist celebrating their big score. He grabs some of the dope, rents a suite at a luxury hotel, and begins calling around town for a parade of girls. One of them is Max (Karen Alexander), an occasional informant for Lowery, whom Lowery has asked to keep an ear to the ground for anything unusual. In one of many credibility-straining plot devices, Max brings along her best friend, Julie (Téa Leoni), even though Julie isn’t a working girl. Thus it plays out that Julie becomes the eyewitness when Fouchet bursts in on his insubordinate punk, demanding the return of his dope and generally shooting up the place.
Julie narrowly escapes and calls the one person Max has told her to trust: Det. Mike Lowery. But Lowery is out chasing a lead, and Julie won’t talk to anyone else. So Capt. Howard orders Marcus Burnett to impersonate his partner – and that’s when Bad Boys fully reveals itself as the goofy comedy it was to begin with. (The original stars were John Lovitz and Dana Carvey.) Burnett’s masquerade as Lowery goes on much longer than any action plot would require, because it’s really about having Martin Lawrence get himself knotted up into the kind of exasperated, blustering embarrassment at which he excels. For her part, Leoni find unexpected twists in a role that was clearly written as nothing more than a damsel in distress. She lets you see Julie figuring out early on who Marcus really is, but deciding to play along anyway – and making it as painful for him as possible.
By the middle of the film, everyone has thrown credibility out the window. Fouchet and his gang, having pulled off the perfect stealth heist, begin shooting up Miami like Al Capone. Julie the terrified witness suddenly grabs a pistol and goes gunning for Fouchet (it doesn’t go well). And Lowery and Burnett, the experienced cops, flee from Fouchet and his men instead of calling for backup, because it makes for a hell of a chase scene. Through it all, Smith and Lawrence keep wisecracking, and a lot of it is pretty funny, because they click with each other and with the people around them. (Watch for a pre-Sopranos Michael Imperioli as an unwilling informant.)
Smith and Lawrence were both well known from TV, as well as from other careers, Smith in rap and Lawrence in stand-up, but Bad Boys was a break-out opportunity for them to anchor a film, and they make the most of it. Smith in particular shows the essential quality that distinguishes great film actors, which is that he always seems to be doing something interesting. (Ironically, this film and the following year’s Independence Day would seal his public image as an action star, when in fact his first major film role was a credible dramatic turn in Six Degrees of Separation.)
Bay had already established his signature visual style in commercials and music videos, but Bad Boys doesn’t look like the films he’s done since, in large part because he had a much smaller budget and much less time. That meant fewer shots and fewer opportunities to cut up the action in the editing room. Bad Boys probably has the most fluid sequences of any Michael Bay film (admittedly that’s not saying much), simply because Bay was limited to capturing the essentials, and he does know where to put the camera. At one point, Lowery is chasing Fouchet and his men on foot, and the sequence has the same kinetic charge you’d expect from a chase scene directed by Kathryn Bigelow. That’s not something that would survive the editing process once Bay moved on to blockbuster budgets. It’s probably not a coincidence that Bad Boys is the last time Bay directed a film that came in under two hours.
Bad Boys established the template for all of Bay’s successful blockbusters. They’re all essentially comedies with action. The director, editor and effects people (practical and digital) supply the thrills, and the cast provides the comedy. Think of Nicolas Cage’s entire performance in The Rock, and recall that the first major action set piece in that film is a ludicrous San Francisco car chase, completely unrelated to the main plot, between a Humvee and a Ferrari. Bullitt this ain’t. (When the producers wanted to cut the sequence to save costs, Bay insisted on keeping it; he knew what he was doing.) Think of the crew of misfits in Armageddon, and the Russian astronaut with whom they rendezvous. And, of course, think of just about any character in the Transformers films, every one of whom ends up playing scenes for comedy, including the robots.
When Bay steps outside his comedy + action comfort zone, you know it immediately. Pearl Harbor and The Island both felt slack, because Bay has no real feel for either history or science fiction. His strengths are jokes and pyrotechnics, which are pretty much the same strengths shared by the heroes of Bad Boys. One of the film’s best qualities is that it showcases Bay’s best talents without the excess and overkill that becoming a box office superstar would shortly allow him to indulge. Exhibit A? Bad Boys 2. I managed to sit through it once – and never again.
Sony has provided their usual exemplary transfer, but if you’re expecting the look of a typical Michael Bay film, you may be surprised. Besides being a 1.85:1 film (a ratio Bay hasn’t used since), Bad Boys doesn’t have the harsh look and heavily saturated pallette that Bay has since come to favor. The colors are generally cooler, and the image smoother, though fully detailed, than in something like Armageddon. Black levels appear to be solid, and shadow detail is usually good, although occasional shots have areas that appear to be underlit, probably as a result of time constraints. I did not detect any motion artifacts, and of course there was no evidence of DNR.
The DTS lossless track showcases the film’s active and entertaining mix, which is full of gunplay, explosions, car chases and other action set pieces, such as the evidence locker robbery, which features a motorized “sled” racing through a ventilation system. Smaller effects also bounce through the surrounds, such as flies buzzing around a body at a crime scene (and yes, it’s part of the joke, because Burnett is sickened by the stench, and Lowery rags on him about it). The dialogue is clear, and the bouncy score, primarily by Mark Mancina, sounds better than it ever has.
MovieIQ™. This is Sony’s on-screen trivia function that uses BD-Live capabilities to provide IMDb-like information during playback. The option is selected from the “play” menu. An icon indicates when relevant information is available.
Commentary with Director Michael Bay. This commentary was recorded for the 2000 special edition DVD, while Bay was working on Pearl Harbor. “Sometimes people think I’m crazy”, Bay says at the outset. That may be, but he does interesting commentaries. He’s frank about the script’s problems and the budgetary limits, but he clearly relishes telling tales, whether about story development, the shooting experience, the editing process or his approach to directing. And like most rebels, he answers to a higher authority: his mother. When she saw an early cut of the movie, she objected to the number of occurrences of “fuck” in the opening scene, and Bay cut them down.
Putting the Boom and Bang in the Bad Boys (SD; 4:3) (23:54). This featurette was also taken from the 2000 special edition DVD and focuses on the work of pyrotechnics artist Michael Meinardus and weapons handler Mike Papic. It’s an entertaining and detailed look at the painstaking work that goes into creating onscreen mayhem.
Music Videos (SD) (11:12).
69 Boyz, “Five O, Five O (Here They Come)” (4:3)
Diana King, “Shy Guy” (1.85:1)
Warren G, “So Many Ways” (4:3)
Trailers. The disc contains trailers for Casino Royale, Men in Black, Ghostbusters Blu-ray, Hancock, Armored, Harry Brown, Wild Things: Foursome, Unthinkable, The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day and Black Dynamite. The trailer for Bad Boys is not included but is available as of this writing at Sony’s BD-Live site.
BD-Live. Other than the film’s trailer, there are no additional feature specific to Bad Boys.
Features not included from the 2000 DVD: A few features from the special edition DVD have been omitted. In addition to the film’s trailer, they are: a photo gallery; an isolated music track; and a multi-angle stunt sequence comparison entitled “Damage Control”.
As Bay admits on the commentary, you can drive a truck through the holes in Bad Boys' story logic, but who cares? The film’s lively, it’s funny, and it’s also something of a landmark in film history. When it grossed $100 million abroad, studio heads took notice – and anchoring a major motion picture with an African-American protagonist suddenly became a bankable notion. Bay claims to know which scene made Will Smith a movie star, and he’s probably right.
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic BDP-BD50 Blu-ray player (DTS-HD MA decoded internally and output as analog)
Samsung HL-T7288W DLP display (connected via HDMI)
Lexicon MC-8 connected via 5.1 passthrough
Sunfire Cinema Grand amplifier
Monitor Audio floor-standing fronts and MA FX-2 rears
Boston Accoustics VR-MC center
SVS SB12-Plus sub