N FEBRUARY 2017, Bad Boys 3 will crash into cinemas, with or without Will Smith. Could be a Next Gen reboot. Could be a Bad Babies prequel. Could be set in space. Who knows, but this double bill indicates what the producers should be aiming for: recapture original, reverse over sequel.
Shot 20 years ago, it’s easy to forget Bad Boys was a career bazooka for ’90s TV talent Michael Bay was a pop-video director, Smith and Martin Lawrence sitcom stars. The film that launched them is like a final roar from the ’80s buddy-cop cycle an unashamed cliche pile-up complete with nightclub shoot-
outs, ball-busting captain (Joe Pantoliano) and a fruity Euro villain (Tcheky Karyo). What remains fresh is its something-to-prove energy.
The character-clash of loose cannon and family guy is brazen formula, but Smith and Lawrence zing like a dream. They were so well-cast, in fact, that much of the banter’s improvised.
Surprisingly for a debut, Bay’s signatures are on full display: the “frame-fuck” cutting, the fetish for machinery, and an eye that sees the world in Sunny Delight orange. It is what it is: Miami Vice through a fat ’90s boombox, and one of the last blasts of pre-CGI action cinema. The climax presents an exploding aircraft hangar raining $100 bills.
That’s the stunt budget cooked before your very eyes. Only in a Simpson Bruckheimer production.
Bad Boys’ standout car chase features barrels exploding from an ice-cream van. Part two, which came eight years later, reinvents it as the franchise action beat, not once, but twice: first, with a car transporter hurling motors down a freeway, then, an hour later, with corpses tossed from a morgue truck. (This is played as comedy.) The former is gaspingly great and Bay’s definitive action-gasm. The latter reeks of grotesque desperation. You expect excess from a sequel, but Bad Boys II blasts the bigger-better-bangier model to extinction. The plot centres on a batch of killer ecstasy. After two-and-
a-half hours of prime Bay, you feel like you’ve been spiked by the stuff. Declaring all-out war on storytelling, it’s more a continuous strobe of set-pieces, with narrative shrapnel flying out.
The surprise is a flat-battery Smith and Lawrence: if you’re wondering where the warm rapport’s gone, it’s because they’re now playing the same character. Aim two loose cannons at each other and they self-destruct.
“That’s funny shit!” shouts Smith to remind you a joke’s just happened. It’s all a bit sad. Despite the aggressive smack and zing, the overwhelming sense is of hyperactive stodge that denigrates the buddy-cop genre it once revitalised.
It lumbers and pants, like a fat cop running through traffic. SIMON CROOK
Clockwise from above left: Top volume from Bad Boys Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in the first film; Tea Leoni as Bad BoyS key witness, call girl Julie Mott; Bad Boys II out-WTFs the first film’s exploding ice-cream van; The loose cannons get looser and more cannon-y in part two.
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