I didn’t see Sean Penn in any film until Milk. His performance was impressive so I watched another Penn film, Mystic River, also an impressive performance. Last night I thumbed back through time to 1983 to get a feel for his early years in the film Bad Boys; not to be confused with the Will Smith title.
Its a troubled-teen film however not the typical cautionary-tale, after-school-special variety, the situation is more dire. Penn and his adversary, played by Esai Morales, are dipped in some street-level illicit activities and through some ill-fated decisions Penn and Morales become locked up in a prison battle with escalating drama.
The cinematography is bipolar; heavy use of close-ups in some scenes conveys an obligatory but obvious sense of prison claustrophobia; right, its a prison, we get it. In other scenes the tight framing conveys a personal, one-on-one setting, seeming out of place for impersonal surroundings and a plot involving many inmates.
Props, lighting, wardrobe and music – well, it was the 80’s, so kitschy at best.
The writing is good, that is if you can get past the lexicon of the 80’s. I did like the evolution of the story and characters.
The acting is not consistently good but Penn, then in his early 20’s, delivers a convincing performance as the teen facing a moral fork in the road, which distracts the viewer from the film’s flaws, making it consumable.
In the end Bad Boys tattoos Penn with an anti-hero label, which apparently would follow him around in the tabloid antics of his actual life.