This article is a Benefit, offered via this Graboid With Benefits
piece. The correct guesser of the Graboid was Chewer, Mr. Coombs. His requested Benefit was a Movie of the Day for Bad Boys (1983), so here it is.
You too can have a Graboid With Benefits prize, available at your nearest CHUD outlet, corner liquor store, porn house, or Scientology Recruitment Center.
Film: Bad Boys (1983)
The Principals: Director: Rick Rosenthal. Sean Penn, Reni Santoni, Jim Moody, Eric Gurry, Esai Morales, Ally Sheedy, Clancy Brown, Robert Lee Rush, John Zenda, Alan Ruck
The Premise: Chicago juvenile delinquent, Mick O’Brien (Penn), is planning his future as a bigger hood than just the purse snatcher and mugger he currently is. He’s just bought a gun and, along with his friend, Carl (Ruck), he plans to rob a drug deal going down between a Black gang and a group of Hispanics headed up by classmate, Paco Moreno (Morales). Things go to shit, however, and Carl is killed in the ensuing gunfire, as is one of Paco’s running buddies. When trying to make his getaway in a stolen car, Mick is driven off the road by the cops and plows over Paco’s kid brother. He’s subsequently sent to Rainford Juvenile Correctional Facility to begin the long road to rehabilitation. Paco is plotting his revenge against Mick, which eventually leads to his raping Mick’s girlfriend, J.C. (Sheedy).
Meanwhile, Mick has to adjust to juvie life, which includes steering clear of Viking (Brown) and Tweety (Rush), the local toughs who run things inside. A key confrontation with both of them finds Mick as the new boss. He’s also befriended by Barry Horowitz, a small but smart Jewish kid who, despite his size, has learned how to not only survive, but be one of the movers and shakers at Rainford. When Mick hears about J.C., he and Barry execute an escape so Mick can see her. Mick is quickly recaptured and returned to Rainford, but is given a break by the warden due to the circumstances. Mick plans to make the most of it so he can get out. But when Paco is sent to Rainford for his crime against J.C., this sets up a climactic showdown with Mick in which both have something to avenge.
Is It Good: I found it to be quite watchable, yes. This is despite an issue I tend to have with a lot of ’80s gang and at-risk youth pics. With the exception of The Outsiders, I’ve found that several of the movies of the era, that depict tough street life for kids come off as being, well, dated. Things have gotten a lot harder in the last 25 years with bangers getting killed via the proliferation of guns, crack and other hardcore drugs, as well as organized gangbanging: Crips, Bloods, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), etc.
Now there is some respectable gunplay in Bad Boys. But there is an earlier scene where a double cross is going down and most of the gang members don’t have guns. Seeing street kids banding together with knives, pipes, baseball bats and the like doesn’t quite have the impact today. Hands down, if that gang, even just a few years later, tried running up on Nino
Brown, G-Money, The Duh Duh Duh Man and Keisha, or Doughboy or Ferris and
their respective crews, or O-Dog and Caine, with just one gun and some
random stick weapons, shit would’ve gotten a lot more real than just
some cross words and hurt feelings. It’s almost like watching an ’80s breakdance battle: the participants going to war in ripped acid washed jeans, Members Only jackets, shirts with erect collars, furry vests and raccoon tail accessories. It loses just a little of the grittiness. I don’t know, maybe I’ve just been permanently ruined on the whole ’80s street tough milieu by Michael Jackson’s Beat It video.
Also, and I’m not exactly up on the particulars of Illinois laws involving juveniles then and now, but it seemed incredible now the things that those kids got away with back then. Plow over a kid in a drug robbery gone bad or rape a young girl or firebomb a bowling alley and kill three people, and as long as you’re under 18: a relative slap on the wrist. Man, was the state of the legal system toward juveniles really wired that way back then? Mick has a rap sheet longer than the Magna Carta and he’s never even been to juvie? These days, Mick, Paco and especially Barry would have been put under the state pen.
Be that as it may, all that can’t detract from some good work by future name stars, especially an affecting turn by Sean Penn. His Mick has a pronounced and believable arc, and Penn is about as far away from Spicoli, a role he played just a year before, as he could be here. Eric Gurry is also notable as Barry, who is a wisecracking and savvy running mate to Mick. Not sure why Gurry couldn’t parlay that into more good roles than he did. Morales and Reni Santoni are also fine in their roles. Santoni trying to stand back up after getting his dome wailed on by Paco with a lead pipe (a lead pipe, classic) was humorous.
However, much as I love Clancy Brown, and he was fun and very much the asshole as Viking, he just couldn’t make me believe that he was a juvenile. Viking looked like he’d be doing okay in grown up jail, let alone juvie. It’s probably because Brown was 24 when he did the role. Then again, though, Penn was 23, but he could still pass for a 16-year-old. Nothing wrong at all with Brown’s portrayal, as it is very classic Clancy, but he wasn’t that far removed – basically a much needed haircut – away from Hadley here. Sheedy was also good.
Is It Worth A Look: I think so. I wasn’t really up on this title, so thanks to Coombs for asking for it. It’s mostly Penn’s show here, but there are some other good portrayals to catch.
Random Anecdotes: There’s a quick shot of a theatre showing Halloween II. Coincidence? I think not.
Cinematic Soulmates: The Outsiders.