This week, the long-rumored production of Bad Boys 3 moved forward at Sony Pictures under the new leadership of co-president Michael De Luca, whose mandate has been to bring Sony back to higher quality tentpole films. What better way to get back to big action tentpoles than to go back to the franchise that delivered $273 million at the box office 10 years ago? Somewhere, the characters of Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz are excited, as is yours truly. But while the in-talks status of Safe House writer David Guggenheim on the project certainly is news in the right direction, many questions still remain. The biggest of which revolves not just around the franchise’s two leading men, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, but about the two men behind the camera who built the world around two volatile Miami narcotics cops: Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer.
Initial reports are just that, initial, and they make no mention of involvement for any of the key players in this scenario. Basically, there’s just a writer being pursued. A writer who delivered an above-average action thriller starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. But in order for this project to gain momentum with fans, it’s going to need to get a few things straight. Why? Because Bad Boys is nothing without two men…
The Original Kings of Bromance
As the producer of Top Gun in 1986, Jerry Bruckheimer may be one of the undisputed founding fathers of the big action bromance. But it wasn’t until he teamed up with popular commercial director Michael Bay in 1995 for the first Bad Boys that he began to really fine-tune the craft of dude pairings in our big summer action movies. Bad Boys brought together the stylish side of the Fresh Prince with the spastic, burger-eating-in-a-Porsche side of stand-up comedian Martin Lawrence. It also brought Bay’s hard-cutting, flashy action vision to full realization with a synthesized soundtrack and plenty of Miami sleaze. Together, Bay and Bruckheimer would go on to create a number of these dynamic duos. Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage as the odd couple in 1996’s The Rock. Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis’ heroic, contentious father-son thing in 1998’s Armageddon. Then back to the well in 2003 with Smith and Lawrence: Part Deux. If you think about it, the only major failure (under the criteria of simply making good action movies together) for Bay/Bruckheimer was Pearl Harbor. What did Pearl Harbor lack, beyond restraint? A strong central storyline that involved the love between two men of action.
In the years since, it would be hard to argue with someone who claimed that neither Bay or Bruckheimer have been the same ever since. Bay has continued to escalate the scale of his action with three, soon to be four epic car commercials, failing each time to find that central buddy duo. Mostly because you just can’t have such a relationship with a sometimes inanimate object. Which puts Bumblebee at a disadvantage having to work with Shia LaBeouf. For Bruckheimer, he also took a commercially viable, less challenging path. He went into a Disney bubble and kickstarted the family friendly Nicolas Cage and family friendly Johnny Depp business, each of which has yielded significant returns for the Mouse House. But for every National Treasure and Pirates of the Caribbean, one has to wonder if that chips away at a man’s soul: doesn’t Jerry Bruckheimer want to make cool dude movies anymore? Probably not, but we can always hope.
It Just Wouldn’t Be Bad Boys
Bad Boys isn’t the James Bond franchise. It’s characters aren’t built upon years of quality non-cinema storytelling. It isn’t even a brand with staying power in which the originator of the central role, a la what is about to potentially happen to Indiana Jones. You couldn’t recast Bad Boys or take the story in a different direction, as Detectives Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey are everything to the story. They are essential, irreplaceable cogs in the Bad Boys machine. If Will Smith and Martin Lawrence don’t sign on the dotted line for Sony, there is no Bad Boys 3. There’s almost no arguing that.
I would posit that such a statement should be made about Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer. Without Bay’s signature style and bravado and without Bruckheimer there to guide him (and more importantly reign him in), Bad Boys 3 should not be allowed to come into existence. As an unapologetic fan of the first two films, I can appreciate what Michael De Luca and his friends at Sony are trying to do. I can even get behind David Guggenheim, as Safe House was a decent film with good energy. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, without the two men who matter most, the ones behind the camera, there’s no reason to pursue another Bad Boys film.