BAD BOYS

Directed by Richard Rosenthal
Written by Richard Dilello
Produced by Robert Solo
Music by Bill Conti
Cast: Sean Penn, Reni Santoni, Eric Gurry, Jim Moody & Esai Morales

1983/123 mins/Color/Dolby Digital Mono
1.85:1 anamorphics/English/USA/NTSC Region 1

Website: www.anchorbayentertainment.com/

Review of the Anchor Bay US DVD

BAD BOYS opens with a montage of cute black and white baby pictures of the young actors who star in the film. We are then introduced to young Chicago thug, Michael O'Brien (played by Sean Penn), who is involved in petty crime, mugging etc. His girlfriend (Ally Seedy) attempts to lure him back to the straight and narrow with little success. O'Brien attempts to steal from a local drug dealer, Paco Moreno (Esai Morales), but instead finds himself caught up in a shoot-out between rival drug dealers and Paco's gang. Fleeing the scene, O'Brien loses control of his car and crashes into Paco's younger brother, killing him.

O'Brien is sentenced to a term at a young offender's institution the Rainford Correctional Juvenile Facility, where acts of violence are an everyday occurrence. O'Brien shares a cell with an arsonist, Horowitz (Eric Gurry), who was incarcerated for killing three other people. Two of the inmates help control the other detainees via intimidation and violence Viking Lofgren (Clancy Brown) and Tweety (Robert Lee Rush). They give out the work assignments and take whatever they decide is theirs, including a new inmate who is viciously raped by Tweety, before being dropped to his death.

O'Brien is put on 'shithouse patrol' by the two who take an immediate dislike to him. He beats the crap out of them and becomes the 'barn boss' in charge of the work assignments. The film cuts between O'Brien's plight inside the institution and outside where Paco is looking for payback for the death of his brother. Paco attacks and rapes O'Brien's girlfriend, is caught and locked up in Rainford, as no other institution has space for him. The young inmates bet on which of the two will survive as the film builds to their inevitable confrontation.

BAD BOYS stands the test of time remarkably well with excellent performances by the entire cast, particularly Sean Penn who has a forceful brooding presence as Michael O'Brien. Esai Morales is also menacing as Paco and Eric Gurry also stands out as Horowitz. His character is calm, but dangerously unpredictable. Mention must also be given to Clancy Brown who plays the bully Viking. He uses his physical presence to great effect and this is one of his best performances.

Anchor Bay in the US has provided us with an excellent DVD. Enhanced for widescreen televisions the 1.85:1 widescreen image is in very good shape. The film does contain some very noticeable grain, but is much cleaner than the old VHS version I had in my collection many years ago. In fact if I had one criticism it would be the film looks too good for those of us who have seen the film on video it had a gritty, grainy look which enhanced the raw edge to the film, but that's just a minor quibble.

It also has a Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack free from noise and contains as extras a trailer, 27 chapter stops and a commentary track by director Richard Rosenthal. Unfortunately this is one of the dullest commentaries I've sat through, with Rosenthal talking in a dull, unenthusiastic voice. There are long pauses and he provides us with some pretty tedious anecdotes. The only thing I learnt was that Clancy Brown's father was Governor of Ohio at the time of this movie and Clancy was very mild-mannered and had to audition on numerous occasions to get the role of Viking. He never mentions Alan Clarke's film SCUM, which is obviously the main influence for this film and the similarities between the two are there for all to see. SCUM was a searing indictment of the borstal system in the UK at that time, whereas BAD BOYS is more of a straightforward action/exploitation film. In the words of Rosenthal on his commentary track, BAD BOYS "was meant to be entertaining not preaching."

Rosenthal went on to direct numerous television shows including episodes of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER - BAD BOYS though is his finest hour and this is a pretty respectable DVD from Anchor Bay in the US. BAD BOYS has also been released uncut on DVD in the UK by Universal (without the director's commentary track).

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Review by Brendan Maltman. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©