This series focuses on the one and only Michael Bay. Attempting to deconstruct his filmography, one film at a time. The ideas explored here may or may not end up in my Dissertation about Michael Bay and Post-Cinema.
And to answer the question: Does it ever rain in a Michael Bay movie?
The Porsche drives towards the camera, the orange haze of the picture, complements the heat. A low angle shot of a plane flying over a sign saying, ‘Miami’. This is BAD BOYS, the first feature film from advertisement and music video director Michael Bay. Starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, two black leads in a buddy-cop crime movie. One of whom was starring in only his 2nd feature film after years of being the Fresh Prince, the other was a comedian and the star of HOUSE PARTY 1 & 2.
On the surface, this had all the hallmarks of a picture that would’ve just been another LETHAL WEAPON rip-off. But something was different.
I think comparing this to the LETHAL WEAPON series is perhaps quite apt. Don Simpson & Jerry Bruckheimer had the BEVERLY HILLS COP movies starring Eddie Murphy, with BEVERLY HILLS COP II directed by the late great Tony Scott, but didn’t have a buddy cop movie like that of the Mel Gibson and Danny Glover vehicle. Joel Silver had that ship, and was loving his LETHAL WEAPON and DIE HARD sequels.
Enter BAD BOYS.
With the director Michael Bay, Simpson and Bruckheimer found the heir to Tony Scott. Young, brash, willing to work for cheap, and able to make adverts and music videos more expensive than they actually were, he became the perfect choice for BAD BOYS. All the hallmarks of a future Michael Bay movie are present. Low-angle shots, slow motion running, rapid editing, the moving frame with static actors. And the trademark Bay shot, the low-angle, slow-motion, circling push-in.
The chase sequence that takes place after the kidnapping of Tea Leoni, features the characteristics of what David Bordwell calls, ‘Intensified Continuity’. The rapid editing features prominently, and is the extreme end of what Peckinpah did in THE WILD BUNCH with ABACABC setups. The intercut images, each of varying speed, seem to have little relation to each other. Will Smith runs in slow motion after a speeding car, the crash of the car meaning the chase continues on foot. When Martin Lawrence runs into the sequence (seemingly out of nowhere), his subsequent jump onto the taxi, and fall are shown in between the image of Will Smith running towards the camera. The audience has to let the sequence play out to deduct what the order of events is.
Throughout the film, Bay and the screenwriter play with the immature humour that has ended up synonymous with the director. There are jokes which are homophobic, anti-vegetarian, sexist, and racist (although, not nearly at the same level as BAD BOYS II, but that is a conversation for another day). The idea that becoming married and having children leads to sexual frustration is a constant feature of the character of Marcus (Martin Lawrence). Mike Lowery (Will Smith), his sex life and his disregard for human life almost make him a caricature of the 80s action hero.
There is an interesting character underneath Mike Lowery, the trust-fund kid who plays at being a Police Officer. But the improvised dialogue between Lawrence and Smith (whilst humourous), undercuts any potential for deep character study. At least the first LETHAL WEAPON had Mel Gibson toying with the idea of committing suicide. However, the characters of a Simpson/Bruckheimer & Bay movie shouldn’t have defects that the audience can relate to.
The final action set-piece in the abandoned airfield/hanger, brings all of these elements together. Even Tea Leoni, who up until this point has had little agency other than to be the sexy woman for audiences to ogle at, gets something to do. She sets off the series of continuous explosions. This is capped off with Martin Lawrence giving the 80s one-liner a try with, “You forgot your boarding pass”, before blowing up some barrels which cause the airplane to explode.
The car chase that follows, brings about the end of the bad guy, a European with a penchant for crime (Hans Gruber anyone?). The execution of said bad guy, is quite brutal. The quick edits, the stone cold look on the face of Will Smith, the slow motion reaction of the bullets hitting the body are overkill.
Which to be honest, is a taster for what is to come for Michael Bay and his work. In one way or another, there is a sense of overkill. But he is really, really good at it. And it should be celebrated.
Finally, did it rain in BAD BOYS? No. It did not.