Film: "Bad Boys"
Stars: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith and Tea Leoni
Theaters: Annex, Movies 8, Eastland, Admiral Drive-in and Cinema 8
(Broken Arrow, Sand Springs)
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Rated: R (language, violence, sexual innuendo)
Quality: THREE STARS (on a scale of zero to four stars)
What do you get when you combine the talents of mega-producers Don
Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, of "Beverly Hills Cop" and "Top Gun"
fame, and Martin Lawrence and Will Smith, two of the hottest
hip-hop comics on series television?
The answer is lots of action and attitude -- with capital A's.
Those are the key ingredients of "Bad Boys," a standard-formula
buddy movie that's jazzed up considerably by the gritty,
give-and-take patter of Lawrence (TV's "Martin") and Smith (TV's
"Fresh Prince of Bel-Air").
The Simpson-Bruckheimer team invests "Bad Boys" with its signature
action shtick and glossy production values (lots of glowing orange
sunsets and pretty urban landscapes).
And the screenplay by Jim Mullholland and Michael Barrie (the
guys responsible for "Oscar" and "Amazon Women on the Moon") is a
catalog of cop cliches -- piling on everything from the bickering
buddies to the foul-tempered police captain to the oily villain
with the foreign accent.
But despite the film's utter predictability, it still provides a
fresh and fun time, thanks to the funky comic rhythms of Lawrence
and Smith as Miami police detectives Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey.
Burnett and Lowrey are long-time partners who are polar opposites
in their personal lives. Burnett is a down-to-earth family man with
a loving wife and children. Lowrey is a tropically cool,
fast-living man about Miami.
The character formula is straight out of "48 HRS." with its
teaming of Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy, and "Lethal Weapon," which
put Mel Gibson and Danny Glover together. This opposites-attract
mixture is a durable formula for comic sparks, and with ignitable
talents like Lawrence and Smith it works like an alchemist's charm.
Smith, who comes to this film with some heavy-duty film
credentials (notably a star-making turn in "Six Degrees of
Separation"), is convincing with the action stuff and quick with
the oddball one-liners ("Back up, put the gun down and get me a
package of Tropical Fruit Bubblicious").
But it's Lawrence who really governs the film as the family man
who wants desperately to be cool like his partner. Lawrence is
really winning as the sweet, foul-mouthed goof who's trying to
balance fast-paced street life with sedate family life.
The cookie-cutter plotline gets moving when a hundred million
dollars worth of heroin is stolen from the police evidence room.
Burnett and Lowrey were in on the original bust, so they're put on
the case, even as their superiors suspect them of being involved in
Early in their investigation, the cops encounter a young woman
(Tea Leoni) who can identify the drug ring's leader -- a sinister,
brainy character named Fouchet (Tcheky Karyo). Burnett and Lowrey
find themselves having to protect this witness from being rubbed
out by the villain's thugs.
But through a far-fetched mix-up, the young woman is under the
impression that Burnett is the hip bachelor and Lowrey is the solid
family man. And this leads to some pretty funny switched-identity
jokes, with Smith playing it domestic and Lawrence bumbling along
as the footloose street dude.
First-time director Michael Bay, who learned his craft on
commercials and music videos, does a solid job of composing
quick-moving action sequences, and he gives his stars plenty of
room to strut their comic stuff. Part of the movie's charm lies in
the shoot-from-the-hip, improvisational air of the exchanges
between Lawrence and Smith.
With its loose-limbed, wisecracking rhythms and its energetic
stars, "Bad Boys" manages to overcome its shopworn premise and turn
the old cop-buddy movie formula in a fresh and funny direction.