Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bad Boys (DVD) 1983 / a film by Rick Rosenthal; starring Sean Penn, Reni Santoni & Jim Moody


"I killed your little brother. But he's dead because you didn't look after him."

In gangland Chicago, Mick O'Brien is a teenage hood pulling off petty crimes. He aspires to bigger things though and, in a pinch, he decides to get into the drug trade, he and a friend making the decision to ripoff a rival thug named Paco. Everything goes wrong though. The realization of a deal gone bad causes guns to be pulled and shots to be fired. Unhurt initially, Mick flees the scene in his car only to run over and kill an 8-year-old boy who just happens to be Paco's little brother. Soon picked up by the police, Mick is sent to the Rainford Juvenile Corrections Facility, a place, not unsurprisingly, that's neither 'juvenile' nor 'correctional'. Rather it's a place where under-18 delinquents learn to become tougher, angrier criminals and where only the most ruthless survive. The wardens and counselors, with the kids all day everyday, care little about the zoo-like atmosphere, having adapted to the inhumane conditions and accepted their role as passive caretakers. Meanwhile on the outside, Paco has avenged his little brother's death at the hands of Mick by attacking and raping Mick's girlfriend, an event soon landing Paco himself in the same facility as Mick.

Before 'Bad Boys' was a Will Smith blockbuster (w/ sequel), before "Cops" thrust the Bob Marley song of the same name into mainstream popularity and long before Sean Penn was, well, Sean Penn, there was the little-known and lesser-viewed low budget film Bad Boys. This is a very good movie. Maybe not great but still admirable for its spot-on acting and wisely uncensored direction by first-timer Rick Rosenthal. Seen here are not the juvenile delinquent cliches of West Side Story, Rebel Without a Cause or even the recent Gridiron Gang, a film which ironically featured the same basic scenario but none of the credibility. There's an almost uncanny realism about this film, an unadulterated, voyeuristic vision of unchecked mayhem and institutional failure. No one sympathizes with any of these kids, and there's no real redemption for any of them. They're doomed already. For theirs is a world of perpetual confrontation and imminent violence where having your guard up all the times goes without saying and scores to settle are never far away. Any semblance of an ordered. peaceable society is lost inside the reformatory walls. Of course there are things about Bad Boys which aren't so great, like the lacking production standards and noticeably predictable ending. But even compared to most 'adult' prison movies, this film approaches the truth better than most. The sense of hopelessness and despair, of repressed fear and the awakening of the animal instinct is never lost on the viewer who feels the discomfort immediately and senses the menacing, almost evil circumstances from beginning to end. To be sure, there's a lion's share of emotionally rigorous content. But it's worth it. (DVD BAD) 

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