“Beverly Hills Cop” meets “Miami Vice” in “Bad Boys,” with predictably combustible results. After a dormant period, the Simpson/Bruckheimer machine is back in working order with this ultraslick combination of expensive action, rude attitude, sassy humor, trendy locations, fast cars, heavy soundtrack and decorous violence. With Martin Lawrence and Will Smith toplining as a two-for-one comedy replacement for Eddie Murphy in similar crime-busting material and with very little else in the marketplace of a muscular, high-concept nature, this brash, jokey actioner could easily dominate the B.O. scene until the first wave of summer heavyweights arrives in May.
This highly polished package is formulaic in the extreme, designed as if to reassert the commercial credentials of one of the most successful producing partnerships of the ’80s. Simpson & Bruckheimer have gone back to the basics that worked so well for them before — a battle between irreverent (black) cops and ruthless (white) villains, with huge amounts of drugs and money hanging in the balance and some babes and nightclubbing lightly sprinkled into the mix — but with the added fillip of a case of mistaken identity providing a new comic dimension. In its own cal-culating, cynical way, it works.
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Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Smith) are longtime friends who’ve been undercover partners on the Miami police force for six years. Marcus, the goofier of the two, is married with three kids and has had trouble finding “quality time” for a little hanky-panky with his wife, while Mike is Mr. Cool, a ladies’ man whose inheritance provided him with a swank apartment, expensive threads and a top-of-the-line Porsche.
In a zingy sequence, some dazzlingly efficient crooks penetrate the bowels of the police department to make off with $ 100 million in packaged heroin the heroes recently confiscated in their “career bust.”
With 72 hours to solve the case before the feds step in, Marcus and Mike plausibly suspect a corrupt ex-cop as being in on the job, but he’s knocked off by the real mastermind, coldblooded Frenchman Fouchet (Tcheky Karyo), as is Max (Karen Alexander), a gorgeous high-class hooker and ex-girlfriend of Mike’s.
A friend of Max’s, Julie (Tea Leoni), witnesses the slayings and is willing to help the cops, but only if she deals directly with Mike, of whom Max always spoke highly. With Mike temporarily detained, Marcus is forced to impersonate his best friend in order to advance the case.
This central ruse serves as the basis of much of the humor, which is largely lowbrow stuff and based in the comedy of confusion, embarrassment and humiliation. The bumbling and henpecked Marcus is forced to cohabit with the brassy Julie at Mike’s lavishly appointed digs, where he doesn’t even know the location of the light switches and is forced to explain, among other things, why there are so many pictures of Mike around.
At the same time, Mike is obliged to move in with Marcus’ family, and some of the biggest laughs stem from Marcus’ suspicions that his handsome buddy might be putting the moves on his wife (Theresa Randle).
But domesticity is never allowed to dominate for long, as the urgency to crack the case keeps intensifying. In one almost laughably implausible sequence inserted only to trot out sexy people in sexy clothes, the good guys, as well as their informant, converge on an opulent, ’80s-style disco where the bad guys just happen to be hanging out, resulting in a chaotic melee.
Throughout, pic is punctuated by the requisite number of intimidations, beatings, shootings, explosions and chases, all staged with knowing panache by 30-year-old first-time helmer Michael Bay, who made his mark with his musicvideos and award-winning Miller Beer and milk commercials. The flash, the dazzling surfaces, the souped-up action and the impudent humor are all present in abundance, just as anything remotely resembling dimensional human beings, recognizable emotions and reality is absent.
Naturally, it all ends with a big showdown and chase involving the leads and the Eurotrash heavy, setting the stage for a sequel to start the next day if the grosses warrant it.
Crucially, the teaming of standup favorite and “Martin” star Lawrence and “Fresh Prince” Smith clicks from the outset, with both right at home handling action and comedy on the bigscreen. Even when it’s not particularly funny, their interplay is engaging, and their lively, raucous personalities keep the proceedings punchy and watchable for the slightly overlong running time.
Other perfs are colorful but one-note, with Leoni called upon to complain too much as the cops’ key witness, Karyo simply despicable as the big baddie and Joe Pantoliano amusingly overheated as the beleaguered head of the police narcotics division.
Production values are as slick as they come. Miami settings provide a dazzling backdrop, John Vallone’s production design reps everyone’s fantasy of the lush life, and lenser Howard Atherton knows how to light anything to maximize its allure and luster. Soundtrack is crammed with R&B and hip-hop tunes.