Bad Boys (1983 film)

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Bad Boys
Bad Boys (1983 film poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRick Rosenthal
Written byRichard Di Lello
Produced byRobert H. Solo
Edited byAntony Gibbs
Music byBill Conti
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Associated Film Distribution
Release date
  • March 25, 1983 (1983-03-25)
Running time
  • 123 minutes
  • 104 minutes (Edited cut)
CountryUnited States
Budget$5 million[citation needed]
Box office$9.2 million[1]

Bad Boys is a 1983 American coming-of-age[2] crime drama film set in a juvenile detention center, starring Sean Penn, Esai Morales, and Clancy Brown, Alan Ruck and Ally Sheedy in their film debuts. The film is directed by Rick Rosenthal. The original music score was composed by Bill Conti.


Mick O'Brien is a 16-year-old Irish-American hoodlum from Chicago. While most of Mick's crimes involve snatching purses, vandalism, and getting into brawls, he aspires to bigger and meaner things, which leads him to attempt ripping off a Puerto Rican[3] rival, Paco Moreno. Everything goes wrong: Mick's partner and best friend Carl is killed, and Mick, while trying to escape the police, accidentally runs over and kills an eight-year-old boy who happens to be Paco's brother.

Mick is sent to the Rainford Juvenile Correctional Facility rather than a state prison for adults. Most of the wardens and counselors seem to have lowered themselves to the role of zookeepers. One exception is Ramon Herrera, a former gang member who talks tough to the inmates, but holds out hope for some of them, especially Mick.

Mick's cellmate is Barry Horowitz, a small, wiry, brainy Jewish kid who firebombed a bowling alley after some boys there severely beat him for flirting with their girlfriends. Their cell block is dominated by a pair of brawny sadists named "Viking" Lofgren and Warren "Tweety" Jerome, who take an immediate dislike to Mick. Mick puts up with them at first, but after he witnesses Tweety killing a small boy by throwing him off the catwalk (the small boy tried to stab Tweety in retaliation for raping him), he refuses to be intimidated by them.

When Tweety and Viking go into Mick's cell to attack him, Mick beats them bloody with a pillowcase full of soda cans. His victory over Viking and Tweety earns him the respect of the block and recognition as the new "barn boss". Meanwhile, to avenge his brother's death, Paco punches and rapes Mick's girlfriend J.C..

After hearing of the rape, Mick is desperate to see her, so he and Horowitz escape the double perimeter fences during football practice through the use of a corrosive paste placed on the fences, making the fences weak enough to kick open. Mick escapes, but Horowitz falls on barbed wire and is then caught where a counselor beats him up for calling him names and escaping. Ramon believes that Mick had gone to J.C.'s house, and soon picks him up. He then takes him on a trip to a maximum-security prison to show what's in store for him, should he continue down the path of crime.

After Paco's arrest upon the police finding out about the rape on J.C., he is sentenced to the same dormitory at Rainford that Mick is in. The staff are fully aware of this potential danger, but no other reform school has a vacancy. Paco attempts to provoke Mick into a fight, but Mick avoids the confrontation as he has a chance of early release if he stays out of trouble, especially after hearing about the death of recently paroled Tweety in a store stick-up. However, he also loses the respect of many of the inmates, who now want to see Paco put Mick away. Meanwhile, in an attempt to retaliate on behalf of Mick, Horowitz plants fertilizer into a radio that he has placed in Paco and Viking's cell, to create a bomb. When the charge explodes prematurely and only injures Viking, Horowitz is condemned to solitary confinement, a fate he fears more than any other.

Paco's transfer is arranged, so he plans his showdown with Mick for the night before. While Herrera was on night patrol, Paco fakes a ruptured appendix so Herrera comes to his aid. Herrera is assaulted, then caged in the office. The door into the cells is then barricaded, and the entire dormitory is aroused by the brawl. Eventually, Mick comes out on top, and the film ends with him very nearly killing Paco while being encouraged by the others to do it. However, resisting at the last second, he does not do it. He then drags a beaten Paco in front of the caged Ramon and other detention officers and heads back to his cell, crying in remorse.



The idea for the film came from producer Richard Solo who told writer Richard Di Lello he was looking for "a Jimmy Cagney story set in a modern day reform school." Di Lello produced a ten-page treatment which Solo liked. He gave the approval to do a screenplay. Di Lello spent about a year writing the screenplay which he says later mostly came from his imagination, with minimal research; he later did research and found it corresponded with what he had written. "My imagination turned out to be far more accurate than I ever anticipated," he said.[4]

Solo hired Rick Rosenthal to direct.[4] Rosenthal later said when he first read the script, "I got to page 90, when there'd been a little kid killed, and I said to myself, 'This is reality, but I can't do this, there's just no redeeming value in the whole thing.'... I got to the end. I accepted. Some script changes were made - I think the script was humanized. It's still a hard film, a tough film, but with soul underneath, and I think with social comment that doesn't hit you on the head."[5]

The script was violent but the filmmakers felt this was necessary to tell the story accurately. "I'm a commercial filmmaker first and foremost," said Solo. "This movie is about young people and the youth audience is the primary one. I simply wanted Bad Boys to have a tremendous reality. How do you tell this story without violence? If you don't, you're saying violence doesn't exist."[6]

Finance was obtained from EMI Films.[6]


Rick Rosenthal says Matt Dillon wanted to play the lead role, but the director was reluctant. He cast Sean Penn on the basis of a reading. "Although I'm crazy about Matt Dillon as an actor, I thought he'd already done the role in My Bodyguard," said Rosenthal. "I was also afraid that the audience might be conscious of a new movie star, where with Penn they'd only be conscious of Mick." The director said Penn is "a very good actor, obsessively so. He went into character for the whole shoot and stayed there, had a real wolf's head tattooed on his arm, checked into hotels as Mick, the whole thing."[5]

It was Ally Sheedy's first role in a feature. "Rick really took a chance on me, he really did," she said.[7]


While filming the escape scene, actor Sean Penn broke an ankle which halted shooting for three months.

The film unit spent six days filming in St Charles, IL, a suburb west of Chicago. They employed about 40 residents as extras.[4]



Universal Studios originally released Bad Boys in 1983, and Thorn/EMI released it on its videocassettes in 1984, but in 1999 Artisan Entertainment took the rights and released the DVD. In 2001, Anchor Bay Entertainment took its DVD rights and re-released it, and in 2007 Facets Multimedia Distribution re-released it on its DVDs.[8] Bad Boys was released on Blu-ray by Lionsgate Home Entertainment for the first time on February 1, 2011, presented "complete and uncut." It is also available for online streaming video rentals and digital download files purchases through Amazon Video and Apple iTunes Store.

Critical reception[edit]

Bad Boys garnered generally positive reviews; review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes currently holds a 90% "Fresh" rating based on 20 reviews.[9] David Denby of The New Yorker magazine argued, "Bad Boys is never less than tense and exciting, but it's coarse and grisly, an essentially demagogic piece of work".[10]

In his original review, Roger Ebert praised the direction and cinematography in particular and wrote, "The direction, by Richard Rosenthal, is sure-footed, confident and fluid; we are in the hands of a fine director".[11] In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Sean Penn's performance is the chief thing that separates Bad Boys from mere exploitation".[12] Perry Seibert of All Media Guide said "Bad Boys proves that great performances can overcome routine story lines."[13]

Rosenthal later said "I think I turned down around 20 or 22 films after 'Bad Boys.' The phone rang all the time. The funny thing is, at the time I didn't know I was hot. But after 'American Dreamer,' I knew the difference."[14]


The soundtrack of the film comprised some late, eccentric funk tracks, as well as Billy Squier and Iron Maiden.

Cultural usage[edit]

The name of the Croatian ultras group Bad Blue Boys (who support NK Dinamo Zagreb) is said to have been inspired by Bad Boys.


  1. ^ "Bad Boys (1983) (1983)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  2. ^ Silver, Alain; Ward, Elizabeth; eds. (1992). Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style (3rd ed.). Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5
  3. ^ Berumen, Frank Javier Garcia (2014). Latino Image Makers in Hollywood: Performers, Filmmakers and Films Since the 1960s. p. 122.
  4. ^ a b c Bad Boys RANUNSTEIN, BILL. Los Angeles Times 1 Mar 1983: m10.
  5. ^ a b 'It's a hard film, a tough film, but with soul underneath' Scott, Jay. The Globe and Mail22 Apr 1983: E.1.
  6. ^ a b BAD BOYS' PRODUCER OFFERS NO APOLOGIES Pollock, Dale. Los Angeles Times 2 Apr 1983: g1.
  7. ^ ALLY SHEEDY'S PERKY ACTING IS PAYING OFF Lyman, Rick. Philadelphia Inquirer 8 June 1983: F.5.
  8. ^ Bad Boys (1983) - Company credits. IMDb. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  9. ^ Bad Boys (1983). Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 22, 2021.
  10. ^ New York Magazine Mar 28, 1983. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  11. ^ Bad Boys. Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  12. ^ Bad Boys (1983): 'BAD BOYS' IN JAIL. The New York Times. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  13. ^ Bad Boys: Critics' Reviews Archived 2012-09-23 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  14. ^ BOMBS AWAY! HOW DIRECTORS CAN SURVIVE BY 'FAILING UPWARD': Broeske, Pat H. Chicago Tribune 25 Sep 1988: 36.

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