Bad Boys I & II 20th Anniversary Edition Review
Michael “Awesome” Bay was unleashed on the movie scene with 1995’s Bad Boys, a storming buddy-cop thriller that is still his best film in this writer’s opinion. It lacks the increasingly crass humour and bloated storytelling (I use the word loosely) of most of his later works, capitalising on the chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as two mismatched cops – Mike Lowrey, a rich playboy, and Marcus Burnett, a family man – in Miami’s Narcotics division. When their career bust gets pinched from under their noses at Police HQ they enter into a race against time to recover the stolen heroin or get shut down while trying to protect Julie, a key witness played by Téa Leoni who can help them identify the bad guys, chief among them Tchéky Karyo’s reliably unhinged French villain.
At just shy of two hours Bad Boys is Bay’s shortest film and it blasts off of the screen, crackling with energy at every turn, ranging from the curse-filled banter between Smith and Lawrence to a succession of excitingly staged shoot-outs and car chases. Téa Leoni's sassy performance cuts through the testosterone and she makes for a good foil as Burnett and Lowrey maintain an identity swap charade in order to keep her on-side. The movie is keenly paced and neither the action nor the comedy wears out its welcome, admittedly it's still a little self-indulgent but overall it’s a glorious reminder of what action films used to be like with real stunts, real explosions, real squibs and not a lick of CG in sight. It feels that much more visceral and involving and I honestly haven’t had this much fun watching a movie in ages. Brilliant stuff, 9/10.
Alas, I don’t know what went wrong with the belated 2003 sequel but it’s an utterly joyless experience, taking everything that the first film did but making it louder and longer and delivering it with a fraction of the same charm, in its place is a mean streak of incredibly tasteless humour. The once-effervescent chemistry between the leads now feels flat and contrived, with jokes played out way beyond any meaningful usefulness and far too many skits that have literally nothing to do with the main narrative. Other returning characters like Joey Pantoliano's exasperated boss also feel like pale imitations this time around, the questionable "humour" turning him into a buffoonish figure of fun. The lack of any of the original's music score by Mark Mancina is another big loss for me, as it’s been replaced by a thoroughly generic score and some bland hip-hop stylings. The action scenes are undoubtedly well put together but a chronic sense of fatigue sets in over this movie’s 147-minute running time, there are only so many times the characters can repeat the same schtick in the same situations over and over.
Just when you think it might mercifully be coming to a close, they embark on an insanely stupid suicide mission to Cuba which culminates in a hillside car chase lovingly ripped off from Jackie Chan’s Police Story. That one scene sums up the film nicely: everything here may not have been done bigger before but it was certainly done better, either in Bad Boys or the other films that were paid “homage” to. It’s not often that I hate a direct sequel to a film that I love because the first one has usually stored up enough goodwill that I can tolerate a mediocre follow-up, but Bad Boys II is so aggressively repugnant that I can’t stand it. The first film feels like it was actually made for adults, and although the second also carries an R rating (Bay’s last R before he made Pain and Gain) it’s astonishingly juvenile in comparison. If anything the R rating allows it to be far more puerile and obnoxious than Bay’s actual PG-13 films, it makes Transformers 2 look like The Godfather. Dreadful film, 3/10.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the original Bad Boys Sony have newly remastered both it and the sequel for this double-pack Blu-ray, and the latter film is something which has been promised since the earliest days of the Blu-ray format but has never materialised until now. For this review I’ve snagged the Canadian edition (Mauvais Garçons indeed) but it features the exact same region free discs as the US version, so if you don’t want to wait until January for the UK release then follow the links below. The two movies are housed in their own individual cases inside a slipbox and come with UV digital copies.
Bad Boys had a problematic transfer on the first Blu-ray released in 2010, it certainly looked fine at first glance but the colour had a very strange saturation issue, skin tones were alternately too pale or too jaundiced and I found it to be very off-putting. Thankfully Sony has put it right for this new “fully remastered in 4K” Blu-ray release and the colour is back where it should be, still retaining that trademark orange-filtered Simpson/Bruckheimer “look” (see Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II etc) but without becoming an outright irritant. The colour is still somewhat variable from shot to shot but then the movie was finished with a photochemical colour grade, so it’s nice to have a little bit more of that filmic unpredictability mixed in there. Detail is good and sharp, revealing every bead of sweat and spatter of blood without ever looking overly ‘electronic’, there are no edge halos to spoil the clean lines. Grain is very fine and rarely impinges on the presentation. Blacks run deep, deep to the point of crushing details but this was evident on the previous Blu-ray, and given Mr Bay’s love of such high-contrast imagery it’s entirely to be expected. The AVC encode has zero problems with banding, macroblocking etc (I’d expect nothing less from Sony). The movie is presented in the intended 1.85 aspect.
For its premiere Blu-ray engagement Sony has brought Bad Boys II bang up to date with a new 4K remaster (the movie having been originally finished on a 2K DI) and the results are extremely good. The 2.40 widescreen image boasts super-saturated colour, razor sharp detail, strong contrast (to the point of black crush again) and a pleasantly authentic dusting of grain throughout. As before there are no encoding anomalies to report. Each movie’s visual presentation deserves the highest marks for being consistent performers in their own way, but for sheer eye-candy it’s the mega-budgeted sequel that not surprisingly stands out.
Audio-wise it’s a similar story: Bad Boys has a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that preserves the less athletic sound design of this 20-year-old movie. Discrete multi-channel digital audio was still in its relative infancy so the mix is more front-oriented, with some deft steerage in front while the rear sound stage delivers ostentatious-yet-sporadic split-rear effects rather than maintaining a constant aura of surround presence. The bass is fairly subdued too. The underlying sound design is also saddled with a library of ageing stock gunshots that lack bite and impact, making it sound far more dated than how the spruced-up visuals appears on screen.
In some ways it’s a shame this didn’t get a Dolby Atmos remix like some of Sony’s other recent 4K remasters have done, but then I’m always moaning about badly remixed films so perhaps I should be careful what I wish for! Still, Mark Mancina’s fantastic score sounds great (it’s as if Lethal Weapon and Con Air had a baby) and you won’t miss as much of a syllable of the foul-mouthed banter because the dialogue is reproduced impeccably. Bad Boys II also gets the same DTS-HD 5.1 treatment and, as with the picture quality, the newer more expensive movie trumps the former with a sonic assault that ticks every box with chunky bass, head-spinning surround action, crisp speech and loud music. No remix required, just crank it up.
In terms of extras Sony haven’t added anything substantial over and above the prior versions so the first movie retains a candid Michael Bay commentary, a ‘making of’ featurette and three music videos, and adds the teaser & theatrical trailers. The trailers are narrated by Hoarse Voice Over Man™ and, like the movie itself, are a nostalgic reminder of how things used to be. (Sony usually leave trailers off their Blu-rays unless they’re for advertising other movies, natch, so I’m very pleased they were added here.) Bad Boys II sees the return of prior features including deleted scenes (like this movie should’ve been any longer!), on-set production diaries, scene breakdowns, stunts and visual FX featurettes and a Jay-Z music video, plus three newly-included trailers.
Bad Boys is one of the finest examples of the buddy-cop-action film ever made, the overblown sequel less so. But Sony has remastered each in 4K nonetheless with superb results, and this Blu-ray double pack is excellent value for money if you’re a fan of both the films. Me, I’m off to put Bad Boys II on eBay.
8 out of 10
10 out of 10
9 out of 10
7 out of 10