Rated R for a lot of language and violence. It's absolutely glorified violence. This is the old school Michael Bay violence of the '90s, despite the fact that Michael Bay didn't direct this. Instead, he shows up as the emcee of a wedding? Anyway, there are some stereotypes that feel a bit dated and even more worship of problematic police violence. R.
DIRECTORS: Adil El Abri and Billal Fallah
Oh man, have I changed so much? I almost feel like I can't write about this movie with any sense of objectivity. We're entering a new period of nostalgia. My nostalgic era is starting to fade away and giving rise to the '90s as a new period of wistful bliss. My buddy, Roy, used to love the Bad Boys movies. Because he loved them so much, I too loved them. I even own Bad Boys II. I can safely say that it hasn't been watched in decades. The sheer fact that I own it means, if I stay true to my writing schedule, that I will watch it and write about it one day. But am I the kind of guy who can applaud the rogue police officer as protagonist anymore?
I honestly thought that my opinions about this movie would swirl around Will Smith's interactions with Chris Rock. After all, after Tom Cruise started jumping on couches pre-Mission: Impossible III, I couldn't stop seeing the crazy. Sure, I Googled "Will Smith Chris Rock" under news and got mild stuff of interest. But this isn't something made after the slap. This was something that came two years before. This is carefree Will Smith. (I don't believe that person ever existed.) But this feels like Smith is the biggest thing on set. I can't deny that getting Will Smith to make another Bad Boys movie was a major coup. It sometimes is hard to separate the actor from the role. But there is something kind of joyful knowing that he'd come back and make something like this. Honestly, I was watching more of Martin Lawrence, whom I haven't heard from in a while. Lawrence was always my favorite part of these movies. If we're talking about The Odd Couple or Lethal Weapon, we tend to gravitate to the everyman in these situations. Johnny Football Hero is there to contrast that avatar. And there's something just straight up wholesome about seeing an actor return to the spotlight. It's not like Bad Boys for Life revived Lawrence's career. But it's more about the fact that he hasn't really lost a step. Okay, maybe he's a bit more doughy (which I don't want to shame him for. It actually really works for the character). He's less of a Bad Boy as someone who remembers what Bad-Boying used to be like.
But the biggest issue is the politics of Michael Bay. The directors of this film absolutely nail what it meant to make a big budget action movie like Michael Bay because it is tonally perfect. But now in 2022, watching this movie read real weird. The film starts off with Mike and Marcus speeding action movie style. It's pretty obvious that this isn't an actual adventure. Mike is driving like a maniac, reminding us about the dynamic between Mike and Marcus. Okay. Fine. But then we find out that they are speeding to the hospital to see the birth of Marcus's first grandchild. See, this is where you lose me. I know it's a gag. I know it's a gag. I can repeat that all day long and understand that it is a gag. But Last Action Hero acted as satire about the state of the Hollywood blockbuster and this is something that would fit more in a straight up comedy than it would in a world that things really had stakes. Like, how many people could have died in Mike's trip? It becomes really hard to sympathize with him as a character when he just lives a life free of any kind of responsibility. Perhaps it is the fact that I just watched Top Gun: Maverick before this, but there need to be consequences for characters like this. Mike Lowery is supercop, where everyone loves his absolutely insane behavior. He literally sped across a populated beach. The baby was already born, but even if it wasn't...who cares? It's absurd. But, again, it's a gag.
So why can Mike Lowery torture a guy? Let's pretend that torture is cool. After all, I was a big fan of 24 back in the day, so I can't deny that there's something fun about watching law enforcement do anything to get results. But Mike comes into this butcher's and just starts breaking the guy's hand. He has almost nothing to do with the story. He's just this CI who has a little bit of a shady past. Okay, but imagine that this guy had something to do with the story. Would it be okay then to destroy this guy's legitimate livelihood? (Note: I had to take a two day break in the middle of writing this. Not ideal. If some of the stuff from here on reads a little different or a little repetitive, I apologize. I'm now trying to knock the rest of this out before my daughter's nap.) I saw a video on Cracked a while ago about Michael Bay's politics. He makes these fun movies (although I swear that the Transformer movies are completely unwatchable.) But in these movies, they express the conservative value fever dream. Cops are great and shouldn't be shackled by restrictions of any kinds. If people are committing crimes, there's no grey area. They're criminals because they are evil. Now, I know that exists in the world. I'm not so naive to think that all criminals are nuanced individuals. But let's use the butcher as the message for the movie. I mean, it's a small scene that has no impact on Mike Lowery's soul whatsoever. This is police work to him. It's only expected that he's going to rough up someone off-the-books. Mike never really tries to do it the right way. He considers it a waste of time. It's not like he was leaning on him and then lost it. Nope, he started off by breaking his hand. Does this not horrify anyone else?
But it is why overtly conservative values make fun action movies. With a movie like Bad Boys, there is no moral dilemma. The internal conflict that Mike faces doesn't come from anything wrong that he's done. He's more emotionally scarred that he had a son that he never knew about and that he's a criminal. (What was that Ang Lee movie about Will Smith's younger clone? Maybe Will Smith finds this narrative interesting?) The movie never even makes you doubt that Mike is in the right. It's what makes Marcus so laughable. Marcus, as goofy as he is about some of his lines, is actually closer to the reality of the situation. When the boys go to confront the methed out accountant, Marcus --again, in the goofiest way imaginable --asks to treat him like a human before resorting to violence. Sure, the film gives Marcus this very tacked on religious motivation behind this choice. But it's supposed to be a joke that Marcus tries treating someone who is mentally impaired like a human being instead of beating the daylights out of them from moment one. The movie laughs at the absurdity that police should be multifaceted instead of just battering rams. And, yeah, the notion of slaughtering cops is something that makes a legitimate plot that should be stopped. But it almost feels like that plot is giving the excuse that no holds are barred in the pursuit of justice.
This was the '90s. This was the era of Howard Stern and Bill Maher, who prided themselves on political incorrectness. I think in the '90s, I was swept up in that as well. It was so much easier to see things clearer. But films like these made us think that there were super criminals who deserved to be destroyed. I mean, this is a revenge story on the part of the bad guys of the film. Isabel comes across as a huge nutbar, maniacally enjoying the people she's tearing apart with knives. There's a real "muah-ha-ha!" element to it all. After all, she sending Mike messages knowing that she's doing all of this? Sure, it's easy to cheer on characters trying to take down characters whose nickname is "Bruja". That's easy, making it so much more complacent to think of what is going on in this movie. When I mentioned that I liked 24 and how Jack Bauer used to do the same thing, there actually is something valuable in watching Bauer do this instead of Lowery. Jack Bauer kept breaking these cardinal rules of society and law enforcement, but it haunted him. Jack led a terrible life and pushed everyone away through his embrace of violence. But Mike? Mike lives the perfect life. He's hailed as a supercop. Everyone seems to like him. He's got fast cars and hits on pretty women. The notion is that the perfect cop should ignore basic police procedure. Even Lethal Weapon made Riggs's life a living hell because of his choices.
I don't know if there's anything necessarily wrong with the actual making of the movie. It definitely is a Bad Boys movie. But I think I may be really over the format as a whole.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.