A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
It's unfortunate that Francis Ford Coppola's "The Outsiders" opens on the same day as "Bad Boys." That makes the contrast all the more dramatic between the high-energy realism of "Bad Boys" and Coppola's stylized, over-careful, deadening approach to somewhat similar material.
Both movies are about tough teenagers. The kids in "Bad Boys" are hardened 1980s street criminals, while the kids in "The Outsiders" are 1950s Nebraska greasers, living in a time when even their toughness belongs to a more romantic tradition. But even so, those are real kids in "Bad Boys," while Coppola's teenagers seem trapped inside too many layers of storytelling.
"The Outsiders" is based on a well known novel for teenagers by S. E. Hinton. It's about class warfare between rich kids (the "soches") and poor kids (the greasers). The greasers try to pick up a soche's girlfriend at the drive-in, there's a fight later that night, and a rich kid gets killed. The two greasers who did it run immediately to Dallas Winston (Matt Dillon), who is the town's ranking adolescent hood. He gives them money and tells them to hop a train out of town.
Although the two scared kids (Ralph Macchio and C. Thomas Howell) are convincing enough, the story isn't -- and neither is the way Coppola sees it. He seems to be struggling with some sort of fixation on the contrived Hollywood sound stage look of the 1950s; there are scenes in which he poses his two heroes against a lurid sunset and bathes them in backlights so improbably reddish-orange that the kids look like Gordon MacRae in "Oklahoma!"