Directed by Michael Bay
Written by George Gallo, Tom Pope, and Doug Richardson
Cinematography by Howard Atherton
Starring Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, and Tea Leoni
USA, 1995

How I wish I could recommend this slick action picture. I'm a sucker for outlandish cop movies (cf. Die Hard With a Vengeance), and I was hoping Bad Boys would be a smart-assed delight. Instead, it's just sorta dumb-ass, if you'll pardon the verbal colloquialism. The storyline is so secondhand that it's hardly worth commenting on, so lets just say that somebody's friend gets killed and a witness to the crime needs to be protected as the bad guys come gunning for her. Will Smith is very appealing, but he's relegated to something like second-banana status through a timeworn gimmick of mistaken identity. It's fair to say that I've never really understood the appeal of Martin Laurence (I passed on You So Crazy), and he's mighty tiresome here. And TV actor Tea Leoni, who was surprisingly good in her next picture, Flirting With Disaster, is a big nothing in Bad Boys.

But as action movies go these days, you could do worse. Bad Boys is certainly pretty, and it's only boring if you think too hard. The constant stream of jokes directed at white America's alleged anxiety over black men with guns ("Don't be alarmed -- we're Negroes!" the two cops announce as they enter someone's home) is actually pretty funny, and I'll admit that I laughed out loud a couple of times. The last action set piece, involving two cars racing toward the same narrow sliver of fence in a hopped-up game of chicken, is a reasonably exciting gimmick that I'd not seen before. And there's a great shot near the end where Smith takes aim at the chief villain -- we're looking past the gun barrel at his face, with Leoni peering in smugly, lasciviously, from outside the frame as though taking some voyeuristic pleasure in the promise of a little gunplay. It's a shot that sums up the basic 90s Hollywood appeal of this Simpson/Bruckheimer production. Indulge yourself, if you must.

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