The music, opening scene and skyline made you feel as if you were back in the ’80s, about to watch Axel Foley take down the gang responsible for the “alphabet crimes.” When you saw the Porsche and realized that its occupants weren’t Taggart and Rosewood but Martin Lawrence and Will Smith, and you saw that you were in Miami, not Los Angeles, you knew you were in for something different, something special. With director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer (no coincidence that he also produced Beverly Hills Cop II) on board, your feelings were correct because you were about to watch the classic, groundbreaking movie Bad Boys.
The draw was obvious. Will Smith’s powerhouse career was growing quickly through hip-hop music, five seasons on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and the movie Six Degrees of Separation. Martin Lawrence had become a huge comedic success with his television show Martin; roles in Do the Right Thing, House Party and Boomerang; and his comedy special You So Crazy. They were two of the biggest stars in black entertainment, but they were being thrust into unfamiliar territory with major ramifications. They were given the lead roles in a new movie that would show, for the first time, two black police officers placed together as partners and as headliners.
It was an untested formula for the silver screen. We’d seen Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte (48 Hours and Another 48 Hours), Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal (Running Scared), Danny Glover and Mel Gibson (the Lethal Weapon series), and even Steven Seagal and Keith David (Marked for Death) come together to create box office smashes and classic films, but we had yet to see two black actors together as the leads on the big screen—and two comedians, at that. It was a big gamble for many, but the factors for success were there.
They had talent. They were funny. They were successful and had their own shows. They had mass appeal. They had Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer. But could they pull it off? Would they have the chemistry to do it? Those questions were answered barely two minutes into the film, after Marcus (Lawrence) dropped a french fry in Mike’s (Smith) Porsche. With that exchange, you knew you were watching a hit.
The film’s description at IMDb says, “Two hip detectives protect a murder witness while investigating a case of stolen heroin.” While I understand that the site’s descriptions need to be brief, this summary does absolutely no justice to the film, its cast, or its significance and impact, especially within the urban community. To get some background, you must look at the preceding few years in film and music.
Read more at the Shadow League.