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Featured Blu-ray Review: Bad Boys

February 1st, 2011

Bad Boys - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Sean Penn's career is defined by his powerful dramas, which have earned five Oscar nominations and tow wins. Back in 1983 when he was just getting his career started, he starred in Bad Boys, which is now mostly forgotten. When people think of his early career, they think of Spicoli and not Mick O'Brien. But now nearly 30 years after it was first released in theaters, it is coming out on Blu-ray. Does it deserve to be rediscovered, and does it shine on High Definition.

The Movie

Sean Penn plays Mick O'Brien, who could accurately be described as a thug. We meet him violently mugging a man after snatching some lady's purse. However, he and his friend, Carl, decide that mugging people just isn't worth the effort, so they decide to up the stakes by going after a local drug dealer, Paco, who is also a high school rival. (The fact that Paco hits on Mick's girlfriend is obviously added motive.)

When their heist goes bad, Carl ends up dead and Mick accidentally hits Paco's younger brother while trying to escape from the cops. He's found guilty of vehicular manslaughter, but since he's underage, Mick is sentenced to serve time at the Rainford Juvenile Correctional Facility instead of a real jail, but that's not much better. Juvie is shown to be a place that, instead of rehabilitating youthful offenders, it trains them for lives as adult criminals. Mick has to learn to survive in an environment where violence is rewarded and even the guards have mostly given up helping, or even controlling the inmates. In fact, the inmates control the prison, led by Viking and Tweety.

Not only does Mick have to survive Juvie, he has to deal with Paco, who is still looking for revenge. First he target's Mick's girlfriend, and then when he's also sent to Juvie, the two will have to settle things.

A powerful story with some great acting that is hampered by a few issues. Firstly, and most importantly, there are almost no sympathetic characters in the movie. We learn almost nothing about Mick or about why we should care about him. Sure, the prison system is messed up, but he's a violent criminal who deserves to be in adult prison for a long time. Instead he is sent to Juvie where he can rise to become the top thug. Worst still, most of the rest of the prison population are one-dimensional stereotypes with only a couple characters being anything more than toughs. Mick's girlfriend, played by Ally Sheedy in her movie debut, is the closest we have to a sympathetic character, although we are never really told why she's with Mick.

The other major problem is the familiarity of the story. Disenfranchised youth being sent to a brutal prison system is hardly a new story. And you know what the climax of the story is going to be more than an hour before it gets there, while it's not hard to guess what the outcome will be.

That said, it is worth checking out, as Sean Penn is very impressive in the film, while there are a lot of other talented young actors in the movie as well.

The Extras

The only extra on the Blu-ray is an audio commentary track by the director, Rick Rosenthal. However, while it's the only extra, it's a good extra and worth listening to. Technically, this is not one of the better Blu-rays I've reviewed, but it is a low-budget film from from nearly 30 years ago, so you can hardly expect it to have the best looking video or most dynamic audio. On the other hand, the price is acceptable at $15.

The Verdict

Bad Boys is perhaps not quite as good as its Tomatometer Score would indicate, but it is definitely worth checking out. The Blu-ray is not something you will grab to show off your home theater system, but its worth the price. Call it a solid purchase.

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Filed under: Video Review, Bad Boys