Tuesday, 22 July 2014
Originally conceived as a post-SNL vehicle for Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz, that is until producer Don Simpson took the pair to Vegas and horrified them by being a party animal / disgusting fucking pig, Bad Boys eventually landed with Martin Lawrence and noted bisexual Will Smith. Propaganda Films graduate Michael Bay finds himself hamstrung on his first feature trying to make sense of a reheated buddy cop script that frequently rambles off into dreadful.
Based on the evidence presented here, it's easy to see why Bay cultivated a distrust of the written word. Four credited screenwriters couldn't shift Bad Boys out of its clunky, tell-don't-show funk. The director gets far better results by just letting the two stars bicker in tight close-ups. Elsewhere, Tea Leoni tries desperately to wring some sort of pathos out of the mumbling, stuttering arc she's been assigned. Bad Boys is an object lesson in the difference between an actor and a star. Workhorse Leoni sticks to the blueprint and comes off wooden. Lawrence and Smith fuck the script off and ham it up, becoming masculine ideals to 15 year old boys everywhere.
Lawrence and Smith's contempt for the basic mechanics of the film they're in saves Bad Boys to a degree. By disengaging they get to be the audience stand-ins, commenting on the formulaic proceedings. The pair don't act like cops. They break the law and flippantly talk about killing people. Most importantly they aren't emotionally invested, because, truthfully, neither are we. This is the idea Michael Bay has built a career on. Why bother trying to construct meaningful characters or situations when you can instead shoot your actors like they're in a hypersexual music video? You make your stars the crux of the commercial. The product they are selling is cool.