Published Jun 08, 2010In a few ways, Bad Boys is a pretty charming film. Though post-Pearl Harbor, and especially post-Transformers 2, Michael Bay has become a whipping boy ― widely panned as the tin god of all loud, fast and stupid Hollywood filmmaking ― it's kind of cute to see him playing with practical effects (and people). And while he remains critically reviled, his movies have a habit of making a lot of money. As a result, Bay's become something of a populist figure: the voice of a film-going public who don't give a rip about the opinions of film critics. But before all this there was Bad Boys: a brash action-comedy that looks as restrained as My Dinner With Andre when compared to the Transformers films. Fusing the buddy cop dynamism of Lethal Weapon with the coke-y intrigue of Miami Vice and the pulse of the Indy 500, Bad Boys casts Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as narcotics detectives trying to recover a skid of stolen heroin while trying to protect a feisty material witness (Téa Leoni). From its lightning-fast opening scene of Smith and Lawrence bickering about the ethics of eating in someone else's expensive car like a couple of frat boys trying to ape the Travolta/Jackson rapport from Pulp Fiction, Bad Boys sets the pace for two hours of too-quick dialogue and too-quick action. Even for those of us who can cheekily appreciate Bay's gross excesses, the film suffers, paling in comparison to its hugely overblown, ecstasy-fuelled sequel. In the director's commentary, Bay constantly makes mention of the film's "teeny" budget (yes, a measly 19-million U.S. dollars) and to some extent, it's nostalgic to see him work with something other than a blank cheque. The behind-the-scenes look at the film's practical effects is fairly interesting, for the same reason. But in the end, this is incoherent, middling filmmaking, even for a filmmaker whose films are terminally incoherent and middling (apart from his follow-up feature, 1996's The Rock, which remains excellent).