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A young delinquent faces threats from his fellow inmates in a harsh juvenile prison.
For more about Bad Boys and the Bad Boys Blu-ray release, see Bad Boys Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on January 28, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Writer: Richard Dilello
Starring: Sean Penn, Reni Santoni, Esai Morales, Eric Gurry, Jim Moody, Ally Sheedy
» See full cast & crew
Bad Boys Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, January 28, 2011
In this age of inner city violence and youth run amok the phrase "juvenile delinquent" seems almost quaint. When film started portraying this sociological phenomenon in pieces like Rebel Without a Cause, the nation was in a somewhat somnambulant mode, almost in a catatonic shock induced by the twin horrors of World War II and the Great Depression. The 1950's were a time when the "grown ups" desperately sought a quiet normalcy, something proscribed and comfortable, a sort of cultural Levittown of uniform square pegs. That very rush to conformity is no doubt was sparked the teens of the time, at least the more emotionally prone of them, to rebel. Things of course only got worse as the years passed, but juvenile delinquency was still often portrayed in film as something the kids themselves couldn't help. They were the real victims, the message went in everything from The Blackboard Jungle to West Side Story. Even more problematic films like The Bad Seed, which posited an actual murderous child, tended to cop out, with contrived Divine comeuppance denouements and closing credits that saw the young actress being mock-spanked by her on screen mother. Strangely, despite the counter culture revolution of the 1960's and the burgeoning independent spirit of the 1970's, nothing much had really changed by the time Bad Boys came along in 1983, interestingly the same year that another juvenile delinquent film, Coppola's The Outsiders, based on the famous novella by S.E. Hinton, also premiered. We are still privy to "basically good" kids who have nonetheless taken to sometimes criminal behavior. Is it all a cry for help? Is it society's fault? The interesting, even notable, thing about Bad Boys is that it at least partially eschews the sociological pontificating about why Sean Penn's Mick O'Brien is the way he is, and instead focuses on the consequences of his behavior.
Penn was sort of an odd duck in his early career, and his star making performance as Spicoli the year prior to Bad Boys in Fast Times at Ridgemont High might have consigned him to a life of stoner comedy roles. But in Bad Boys and the handful of films which followed it (The Falcon and the Snowman, At Close Range), Penn proved himself a dramatic actor of considerable range and depth, something that of course has become obvious to the ensuing generation of filmgoers. But even Bad Boys might have been written off as Penn's own version of icon James Dean's performance in the granddaddy of this genre, Rebel Without a Cause, had it not been for the extremely graphic and gritty ambience of screenwriter Richard Di Lello's original conception, and director Richard Rosenthal's realization of it. This is extremely unsettling filmmaking that virtually attacks the viewer with its emotional turbulence and disturbing imagery.
The film does an incredibly artful job in at least its first two acts. The opening briskly intercuts between Mick, a petty thief prone to purse snatching, neighborhood Hispanic thug Paco (Esai Morales), a drug runner, and some black gang members. It's quickly apparent the three groups are headed toward a dramatic confrontation, and when that does happen, it sets Mick off on his journey to Rainford Juvenile Detention Facility. What's interesting in this opening gambit, at least in terms of the history of juvenile delinquent films, is the almost passing reference to home life that Bad Boys gives the viewer. We quickly see Mick's mother in a compromising position, but Paco's mother seems cut more from the well meaning but impotent cloth of the Jim Backus and Ann Doran characters in Rebel Without a Cause. But there's no dwelling on this element, something fairly unusual for this sort of film, and it helps to make Bad Boys less of an apologist screed than it might have otherwise been. Instead, once Mick's bad decisions lead to the accidental death of Paco's kid brother, we're off into the disturbing bulk of the film at Rainford, where Mick is quickly thrust into a new society of aggressors and daily terrors and debasements.
This second act of Bad Boys is probably the most visceral and frightening depiction of a juvenile facility ever captured on film. Penn's performance here modulates perfectly from an early emotional shut down to a slowly emerging bravado in the face of taunts from the dominant kids who have already been incarcerated there for a while. There are a host of really fine supporting turns in this long middle segment of the film, including a ruthless Clancy Brown as "Viking," the main "alpha" of Mick's ward, Eric Gurry as Horowitz, a wiry Jewish kid who's Mick's cellmate and in a way becomes his mentor for dealing with the intolerable conditions at Rainford, and Reni Santoni as Ramon Herrera, the counselor and social worker who feels there's something to be salvaged in Mick's soul and works overtime to reach him. The Santoni character is in fact one of the film's more hackneyed conceits, but Santoni crafts his performance so expertly that the clichés don't seem overly grating.
Bad Boys starts to lose some of its muster with a brutal attack perpetrated by Paco against Mick's girlfriend (Ally Sheedy), which of course sends Paco to the very same dorm in Rainford where Mick has slowly learned to cope. The final act of Bad Boys finally gives into the melodramatic tendencies of this entire genre, pitting Mick and Paco against each other in a supposed battle to the death. Unfortunately, it's Bad Boys itself which at least partially pulls its punches in this final climactic segment. Without spoiling the outcome, and giving the film the kudos it deserves for not completely going the Boys' Town route of sanctimonious emotionalism, suffice it to say that Mick may have indeed managed to find a shred of redemption in his trials and tribulations. Strangely and perhaps sadly (in a sociological context), it's one of the few elements of this film that feels false.
Bad Boys Blu-ray, Video Quality
Bad Boys battles onto Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1.85:1 image in 1080p. This film was meant to look dirty and gritty, and that same ambience is presented naturally on this Blu-ray. Colors are muted, lighting is often natural with low contrast, and the overall image is on the soft side. This is very typical of early 80's film in particular, and Rosenthal and his DPs Bruce Surtees and Donald Thorin deliberately cast this film in dark, gloomy and depressing tones. The two biggest problems with this transfer, which are interlinked, are an overabundance of grain which has evidently been lessened with fairly aggressive looking DNR. Everything here has that smooth, textureless look, but it still can't completely eradicate the abundant grain which is especially noticeable in the many low lit shots, the bulk of this film. Still and all, this is certainly a sharper, clearer image than we've had before on home video for this release, but it's obviously come at a bit of a cost.
Bad Boys Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Bad Boys is presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, and while that suffices fine for the film, I couldn't help but wonder what an immersive 5.1 track could have done for the claustrophobic cacophony which surrounds Mick at Rainford. Despite the very narrow soundfield, the track sounds excellent for the most part, though it's noticeably boxy in some moments. Dialogue is for the most part very crisp and clean, and the really excellent underscore by Bill Conti is also well represented and effectively mixed into the proceedings. Fidelity is very good, and there is no noticeable damage to report.
Bad Boys Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Unfortunately, Bad Boys is a little, er, delinquent in the supplement department:
Bad Boys Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It's not hard to see why this film and Penn especially had such an impact in 1983, and though the intervening decades have only seen the gang and youth crime situations worsen, Bad Boys is still an incredibly visceral film experience, one that is not easily forgotten and which offers some brutally effective moments. Penn, Morales and Santoni are all incredible, and if the film lapses finally into the very genre it has managed so effectively to rise above for its first two-thirds, it can't discount the incredible force of those first two acts. Though this Blu-ray has some issues, the film itself is Highly recommended.
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Bad Boys Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Bad Boys 1983 Announced on Blu-ray - November 10, 2010
Lionsgate Home Entertainment has announced the 1983 movie Bad Boys for Blu-ray release on February 1, 2011. This crime drama (not to be mistaken with the 1995 Michael Bay movie of the same title), set in a violent juvenile detention center, offers a breakthrough ...
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