Movie Reviews 202 – Bad Boys (1983)

Bad Boys 1983I’m sure that the first thing that comes to most people’s minds when the movie title Bad Boys is brandished is the series of cop comedies with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Not to put down those movies but it is a shame because the definitive Bad Boys movie that everybody should be watching was made long before. It also cemented Sean Penn’s career as this acclaimed dramatic role came on the heels of his comedic role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Anyone that can steal the show back to back in such a diverse set of movies had to have the acting chops to achieve super stardom, which he continues today.

Rewatching Bad Boys today after so many years I was surprised to recognize the early talents of both Clancy Brown and Ally Sheedy, both making their first movie appearances here and already showing great promise of things to come themselves.

Ostensibly a ‘prison’ movie, what elevates Bad Boys from most other prison movies are the ties to the outside world. The story does not stop at showing us how the main characters ended up in the slammer, in this case really a juvenile detention center, but how the events on the outside continue to reverberate with those incarcerated.

Mick O’brien (Penn) is a petty thug and having learned that a fellow Latino student Paco (Esai Morales) and his gang are about to complete a drug deal, convinces his friend (Alan Ruck, Cameron from Ferris’s Bueller’s Day Off) to join him to hit the Latino’s for their cash horde on the way to the big deal. Just about everything goes wrong, and in the resulting melee Mick’s friend dies and Paco’s kid brother is run over by Mick fleeing cops in his car.

Mick is thrown into the grungy world of a detention center where rules are flouted, most guards are indifferent and there is a hierachy among the inmates. The highest spots in the pecking order are currently held by Viking (Brown) and his buddy Tweety who pick on Mick at every opportunity. Mick, with an ever present chip on his shoulder runs afoul of the kings, but he’s got company in that regard with Horowitz, his literate cellmate and electronic wiz repairman. Meanwhile Paco seething with revenge in his blood goes after Mick’s girl (Sheedy) only to find himself in the same pen with Mick due to overcrowding circumstances.

Mick is in a constant struggle with himself, trying to tame his instincts to defend himself and retaliate when confronted. His ticket out is to lay low and not cause trouble, but can he? The battle of wits determines superiority as much as the physical battles in the grand game of cat and mouse within the confines of the chain link fence, all masterfully delivered with great acting and plenty of action.

This is the real Bad Boys movie you should be watching. Watcha gonna do?

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