You forgot 'cha boardin' pass. KABOOM!
Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer remain polarizing filmmakers, with as many fans as anti-fans. So I'm not even going to try. The Michael Bay debate is old and will never end as long as he's making movies. And let's be honest, you know if you're going to buy this Blu-ray already and have probably already skipped down to the video and audio portions (or maybe you'll just check out the star-ratings and rush to the forums). So I've invited two complete strangers to do my job for me: EARL, a shoot 'em up, explosion lovin' film geek, and LINCOLN, a pretentious "there hasn't been a good film in 20 years" film geek.
Gentlemen, to your corners.
EARL: Revisiting 'Bad Boys' takes me back to junior high. Michael Bay's first feature film (with a $17 Million dollar budget) and he just nails it. It's funny, exciting, well crafted, and solidly based in character. You can see why this movie made over $100 Million world wide, and launched his career.
LINCOLN: Funny? Exciting? Are you high? 'Bad Boys' is just a retread of 'Lethal Weapon' and Bruckheimer's (much better!) 'Beverly Hills Cop.' The only thing that happens is that some French guy named Fochet steals $100 Million Dollars worth of heroin from a Police evidence locker, and is going to sell it. File this under "who cares?" and "Bay's moving camera makes me sick."
EARL: Seriously, Dude? One, Tchéky Karyo ('La Femme Nikita') is menacing as he underplays Fochet. And two, of course the villain and story are retreads, but how is that Bay's fault? In 1994-95, Michael Bay was an unknown director of commercials, and Martin Lawrence was actually a bigger star than Will Smith. Times were different and Bay didn't have creative control. Don't believe me? Listen to the commentary. Bay hated the script, only he didn’t have money for rewrites and he desperately wanted to make a feature film. Hell, Disney (the film's first studio) originally wanted to make 'Bad Boys' with freakin' Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey, but Bay managed to improve everything he could, including camera pacing, style, comedy, and character. His biggest success was teaming Smith and Lawrence, who have tremendous chemistry, and really excel in bringing out the "love story structural arc" that is their friendship.
LINCOLN: Listen, "Dude," this move is dated, boring, crammed with clunky expository dialogue, and overflowing with giant plot holes and logic problems. 1995 technology like "mobile" telephones looks painfully Jurassic, and why is Will Smith wearing designer sweatpants? As for logic, Fochet and his band of nameless henchmen rob a police "vault" through a giant man-sized air vent. How convenient! And Tea Lioni's annoying, hippie-veggie "character"…how does she jump off the roof of a hotel into the shallow end of a pool (and live!), but the bad guys don't chase her? Or, why is an abandoned airplane hanger filled with ether and other explosive chemicals? And don't get me started on the idea of a Porsche catching up with a Shelby Cobra (never gonna happen).
EARL: First, the air vent heist is based on an actual robbery thanks to the fact that drugs give off toxic fumes. Two, saying a movie shot in 1995 for 1995 is "dated" is like saying 'Casablanca' looks too much like 1942. It's a product of its time, and as for your so-called plot holes… all that stuff is exciting. Since when do literal physics ever apply to movies? Suspension of disbelief, old man. Bullets don't spark, and explosions don't ripple or plume (at least at a color temperature that wouldn't completely ruin the film's exposure), but it all looks cool and creates a feeling of excitement.
LINCOLN: You see, that's the biggest problem with Bay. All he does is string together a bunch of random "isn't this is cool!?!" moments. It never makes sense, and he's getting worse. I still have no idea what 'Transformers 2' was even about.
EARL: We aren't reviewing Bay's other movies. We're reviewing this one, and the simple fact is that he made a $9 Million Dollar movie (the actual money available to spend on screen after Producer, Actor, Writer, and Director fees) that looks like at least five times that. Bay's trademark kinetic camera that you loathe so much is at a formative stage here (meaning, used in a more restrained fashion) which helps to improve the material, as does some fantastic stunt work, and the amazing Mark Mancina's film score. From the composer of 'Speed,' 'Twister,' 'Tarzan', and 'Con Air,' we get powerhouse background music. Synthesizers, drums, and electric strings compete with a screaming electric guitar to play comedy, drama, and above all, adrenaline-infused tension.
LINCOLN: Well it's not Shakespeare.
EARL: Actually it is. Martin Lawerence has to pretend to be Will Smith, and that's pretty much Shakespeare's 'Comedy of Errors'.
LINCOLN: [explicative redacted] you.
EARL: Listen, it's all about how you go into these flicks. There's a moment during the film's final shootout where our heroes gun down a HENCHMAN, who falls into an electrical grid, which sparks and ignites the gasoline cans rolling around under him, essentially causing the Henchman to die at least three times. This moment more than any other represents Bay's style and what I love about his unabashed enthusiasm for orchestrated mayhem. Sure 'Bad Boys' has its flaws story-wise, which Bay openly admits, but as a newbie filmmaker, he confidently succeeded by personally elevating average material, and the movie still works today despite some dated slang, technology, and clothing.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The 50 GB Dual-layer Blu-ray disc is coded for Regions A, B, and C. Popping the disc into your Blu-ray player brings up a Sony logo and then the Main Menu.
LINCOLN: Sony's 15-year-old film source (AVC-MPEG4 1080P encoded, with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio) is far from perfect. There are soft shots, specs of dirt, occasional hairline scratches, and the crushed blacks and high contrast colors are tragic.
EARL: Wrong. This is easily the best 'Bad Boys' has ever looked and it's clearly a very strong catalog title. Detail is vastly improved over previous home video releases (check out the maggots on the venting contractor's dead body) rendering a sharp, deep image. So many other titles (looking at you 'The Jackal', made after this movie) remain flat and dead on Blu-ray. Sure, there are some aging issues, but 'Bad Boys' often looks brand new.
LINCOLN: Yeah, it's better than the DVD – what isn't? But look at the contrast. The black levels. I'll accept the night scenes and sometimes-crummy stock footage featuring deep blacks with no visible detail, but there are so many times where, mostly indoors, characters are filmed in a way where shadows on and around faces consume visible detail (and don’t tell me that was "aesthetic" – the scenes actually shot to resemble a noir palette look fine).
EARL: I have to give you that one. Those odd face shadows are a shame, as is the banding around them, but don't talk about soft shots or film grain. This presentation looks like a film, or any movie shot on a similar film stock, of the era. As for softness, blame the focus puller for those individual shots, cause it doesn't seem to be a fault of the Blu-ray.
LINCOLN: How can you not judge video based on filmmaking mistakes? Sure the Blu-ray's going to display what's available, and if that's non-aesthetically, not-on-purpose, out of focus moments, well that's a bad video presentation. So I'm counting it.
EARL: Fine, but I'm letting the readers know that this movie, despite a few flaws, is a faithful rendering of the available source material, looks better than it ever did, exudes the film's strong color palate, and revels in the added resolution of the format (please see the film's climatic explosions, which are beautifully photographed and highly detailed).
EARL: For a older mix, this default English DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is very strong. Dialogue is detailed, easy to hear, and the movie's directional placement of effects is accurate and active. The "Club Hell" sequence is the subtlest, featuring footsteps in all channels, and not surprisingly, the films airfield-set climax packs the most punch. I wasn't sure what to expect, but 'Bad Boys' remains a winner.
LINCOLN: You're being too kind. Dialogue is clear and prioritized in the center channel, but the increase in available dynamics, thanks to the DTS-HD MA lossless audio, highlights a few flaws. Primarily (in what is presumably ADR recorded dialogue), voices can be flat and don't perfectly match the tone and tenor of the scene's location. Further, as an early 5.1 mix, the surround channels aren't as discrete or active as they could be…
EARL: Which one would expect of any title from this era, that it's more like expanded stereo than a fully immersive mix.
LINCOLN: Hold up, Chief, I was just getting to that. While 'Bad Boys' can't really be docked for representing its era, as an action film, it's not on the same level or fidelity as modern pictures. LFE levels are present and often adequate, but given the size of some of these explosions, modern audiences expect their living rooms to shake and shudder. For what it is, it's highly successful, loud (but not overly so), and dynamic.
Sony also offers French and Portuguese DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtracks as well as a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital option. In the subtitle landscape, the disc includes English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, and Spanish subtitles.
This Blu-ray release of 'Bad Boys' closely resembles the 2006 'Special Edition', but a few special features have been left off, including: the trailers, talent files, and "Damage Control" (an multi-angle documentary that explored the special effects explosions) Here's what remains:
In spite of a mediocre script and a tiny budget, 'Bad Boys' excels as an action comedy that launched the movie careers of Michael Bay, Will Smith, and to an arguably much lesser degree, Martin Lawrence. It's a fun romp with sexy women, fast cars, explosions, guns, a decent villain, and actual character-based comedy. Now on Blu-ray, it's far from perfect, but given its age, this is a quality upgrade and a must-own for fans. Collectors beware, a few of your coveted special features have dropped away, so you might have to keep the DVD around. For casual viewers or younger cinephiles, 'Bad Boys' represents both the good and bad of '90s action movies, and remains a prime example of how Michael Bay used to elevate the overall material and not just the special effects.