Most people who have read my reviews before know that I don’t particularly care for prison movies. They hardly ever have a complicated story and instead focus their time solely on fights and homosexuality. But there are examples out there that go against the grain. One such movie stars a very young Sean Penn who is a young thug on the wrong side of the law. He ends up in a juvenile detention center which is made in ever way to appear like a prison. It is simply called: Bad Boys.
Mick O’Brien (played by Sean Penn) is a troubled teen living in Chicago. He steals purses from ladies; he knocks out men and takes their wallet. During the day, he goes to school. He has a best friend named Carl (played by Alan Ruck) and a girlfriend named J.C. (played by Ally Sheedy) who he cares for very much. Life is hard for young Mick and things aren’t looking to get better any time soon.
Paco Moreno (played by Esai Morales) is a young drug dealer who is also on the wrong side of the law and goes to the same high school as Mick. He just scored a briefcase full of new drugs to sell and thinks he is going to make a wad of cash. But Mick has other things on his mind and plans to steal this cache of drugs. He convinces Carl to go with him on the heist. But as one could guess, things get seriously wrong.
Everything goes wrong for both parties involved and as a result: two important deaths occur. Mick’s friend, Carl dies a violent death and perhaps even more shocking, Paco’s kid brother suffers the same fate when Mick accidentally runs him over while trying to get away. But the only one who gets away is Paco as Mick is taken away by the police. Since Mick is only a juvenile, he can’t be charged with the same crime as an adult and is instead sentenced to the Rainford Juvenile Correctional Facility.
Rainford Juvenile Correctional Facility is ran by a few adults which include Supervisor Daniels (played by Jim Moody) and Supervisor Wagner (played by John Zenda). Ramon Herrera (played by Reni Santoni) acts as the guidance counselor and tries to help the troubled teens. The Warden Bendix (played by Tony Mockus Jr) overlooks the operation. But, this is a prison movie so we know the people who run the prison are the inmates inside.
Those two people who run the asylum so to speak are none other than “Viking” Lofgren (played by Clancy Brown) and “Tweety” Jerome (played by Robert Lee Rush). From the moment Mick walks into the facility, he is given the new guy treatment and must figure out how to survive. Luckily, his cell mate, Barry Horrowitz (played by Eric Gurry) becomes his friend which opens the door to many possibilities.
Meanwhile, back at home Paco is plotting his revenge against Mick. The death of his little brother is a horrifying reality that he can not face. He knows that one way or another he must get inside that facility and make Mick pay for his crimes. Inside juvenile correction, Mick tries to find himself and gain some much needed respect. Can Mick make it inside Rainford Juvenile to see his release and how exactly will Paco extract his revenge?
Surprisingly, this is not your typical prison flick. Keep in mind, the movie does have a few of the usual clichés including cigarette racketeering, implied homosexuality, and an escape plan among others. But there is something different about this film in that among several of the main characters including Mick most importantly you can see emotional growth. The cast is full of strong performances and clearly defined characters. It is not simply a bunch of thugs grunting and punching each other lights out.
Maybe it is because we are dealing with teenagers but the film gives some sense of hope even if the mood is rather dismal. We genuinely start to believe that Mick might go on to lead a different life than one to be full of crime. It was also good to see that the facility employees weren’t just the stereotypical guards with an ax to grind. Daniels and Herrera both showed some compassion in their line of work even if they had to continuously lead a straight laced example.
The video is in 1.85:1 widescreen presentation in 1080p resolution. This is on blu-ray, right? The resolution is okay for a twenty year old film, but this movie is full of softness and lack of detail. Colors are okay and the movie’s gritty feel really shows through. Darks are all over the place as one could guess and they come just about average where some detail does come through but they are still issues here and there.
For the audio portion, we get a 2.0 English DTS-HD track. As with the video, I didn’t find the audio all that cleaned up. The good points are that the dialogue is very clear and you shouldn’t any trouble with clarity. One might turn up the volume a bit and don’t think any surrounds are to be used due to the 2.0 track. Its center and is about as basic as one would expect. Subtitles are included for English SDH, English and Spanish.
- Automatic Trailers: The Doors, Apocalypse Now, Buried, Rabbit Hole and Biutiful
- Audio Commentary with Richard Rosenthal: The director joins us on this commentary. This appears to be a fairly new commentary and Richard helps shed a lot of light on the production. He of course goes into how it was to work with Sean Penn at such a young age. Richard spends a good deal of time going into the steady cam vs moving cam decisions and points out some unbilled cameos like Jaime Lee Curtis. A particular interesting bit was the concept of a “Source Score”. Very little dead space and a solid commentary.
- Theatrical Trailer 2:03: Another trailer that plays up the movie completely different from how it turns out. The movie has plenty of emotion and this trailer only makes it seem like another prison action movie.
Thank you Bad Boys for not being the typical prison flick. Sean Penn certainly earned his acting chops in this movie and proved that he was a movie superstar for years to come (even if lately I’ve been somewhat disappointed by his more recent films). The supporting actors and actress (Sheedy) all did a fine job of making this an enjoyable movie to watch. The characters grow and develop over the course of the film, something that often seems to be missing from a lot of recent films.
The disc unfortunately is a fine example of some movies that don’t really need the hi-def treatment. It has average video and audio that doesn’t seem to be accentuated by the blu-ray experience. The commentary by Rick Rosenthal is quite a treat and should be quite informative in lieu of the usual featurettes one would expect. I give this film a solid recommendation for the film. However, if you can find it cheaper on DVD, that might be the way to go as long as you can procure an uncut copy of the film.