review for Bad Boys on AllMovie

Bad Boys (1983)
by Perry Seibert review

Although much of the film verges uncomfortably close to cliché, solid performances make Bad Boys something more than a simple genre exercise in juvenile delinquency. Sean Penn's Mick talks in a laconic mumble that often plays entertainingly against his motor-mouthed cellmate, Horowitz (Eric Gurry). Mick stays quiet because he assumes anything he says will be used to harm him, while Horowitz's ceaseless patter covers his frail psychological makeup. When they share the screen, there is a palpable vitality. The middle section of the film, in which they combine their strengths to become the alpha males of the prison, manages to simultaneously build tension while subtly revealing Mick's (comparative) humanity and Horowitz's sociopathic nature. Sadly, the characters take a back seat as the film gears up for a typical "last big showdown" fight between Mick and the bad guy. With 20 or so minutes of the film remaining, Horowitz exits, taking a great deal of the film's energy with him. Although the ending is not as powerful as it could be, Bad Boys proves that great performances can overcome routine story lines. More often than not after this film, Penn would have material worthy of his status as arguably the finest actor of his generation.