It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Bad Boys" tells the story of some tough Chicago street gang kids who get in a lot of trouble, get sent to a juvenile correctional institution and get in a lot more trouble once they're inside.
Following the tradition governing such movies, the story eventually comes to a moral decision at which a bad boy has to decide whether to become a good man -- and that's too bad, because until the movie turns predictable, it is very, very good. The acting, the direction and the sense of place in "Bad Boys" is so strong that the movie deserves more than an obligatory right scene for its conclusion.
The movie stars Sean Penn as Mick O'Brien, a teenage Irish-American hood from the Bridgeport neighborhood, and Esai Morales as Paco, a Latino hood from the Pilsen district. They are both tough, mean, anti-social kids; this movie doesn't sentimentalize street gangs. Their paths cross in connection with a drug deal that Paco is doing with a black gang. There's a misunderstanding, a sudden, shocking exchange of gunfire, and Paco's kid brother is dead. Mick killed him. Mick is sent to prison, and then Paco has his revenge by raping Mick's girlfriend (Ally Sheedy). Paco is caught and sent to the same prison where Mick is being held.
Mick already has learned the ropes, and Paco learns them quickly: The prison guards preside sincerely but ineffectually over a reign of terror enforced by the toughest kids in the prison. Violence and sexual crimes are commonplace. The strongest survive. This situation is complicated, of course, by the fact that everyone in the prison immediately knows that Mick and Paco will have to fight to the death over their feud of honor.