Let me take you back to a time before Michael Bay took over childhood pop culture like 'Transformers' and 'Ninja Turtles'. And no, I'm not being completely critical of those movies, but it does seem to be about the point for people to get split into two when concerning his direction. Of course, that's after 'Pearl Harbor' as well, which basically everyone hated. But there was a pre-'Pearl Harbor' phase when Bay was actually pretty well-respected as an action movie maker. For my money, these have been a couple of his best two films to date, despite their very low Rotten Tomato scores. See? I go against the grain sometimes.
Without having to dig up anything from our childhood, these two movies may very ell represent Bay's quality stamp. They are every Michael Bay stereotype, rolled into a neat little buddy cop package. In other words, if you're looking for seriousness and realism, you won't really find it here. But you will get a couple of nice pieces of brain candy, and the enjoyment of action for the sake of action.
In the first film, detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), protect a witness to a murder (Téa Leoni) while investigating a case of heroin that had been stolen from their police precinct's evidence room. The first film is almost more of a comedy than an action, although the action elements are there just as well. It's likable enough, but when all said and done, 'Bad Boys II' is just better.
'Bad Boys II' involves the same two cops, now recognized in the narcotics division, investigating a steady flow of ecstasy coming into Florida from a Cuban drug cartel. It sounds less exciting than it really is though, as this one is packed with some pretty intense action, including one of the most amazing car chase scenes in cinematic history (at least, that's my humble opinion). If you've ever seen 'Hot Fuzz', and how much Danny Butterman is obsessed with this movie as an action fanatic, I'm kinda sorta right there with him on my opinion of it.
Now, what makes it okay to have an action movie like this as compared to 'Transformers' and 'Ninja Turtles' which I tend to be on the more critical end of? Well, for starters, I just like other versions of these things from my childhood a bit better. But really what it boils down to is that these are Michael Bay's answer to buddy cop films, and have a bit of an originality about them in that they don't borrow from any sort of pop culture aside from, well, other buddy cop films. In their own right, they're almost satire (especially 'Bad Boys II') or your stereotypical action films.
I think the best preset day comparison I can draw here would be something like the 'Fast & Furious' movies. It's action for the sake of action, you check your brain at the door, and you hold on for the ride. Many would say the same about the 'Transformers' and 'Ninja Turtle' movies as well, and that's cool too, IF it works for you. The bottom line is that Bay is a director not to be taken too seriously. He has admitted to the masses that he makes movie for teenage boys, and I can't deny that's kinda what we've been getting with his new stuff. But these movies have some nice solid R-ratings to them, thus highlighting a time when he made movies for adults.
Of course, in the end, this would all be followed up with 'Pain & Gain', which is decently rated, well-liked, and on my "Catching Up" list. It may very well take these movies' place these days, I'm not entirely sure. But one thing I am sure of is, despite the low ratings these movies get, general audiences still get something out of them. For example the first 'Bad Boys' has an RT rating of only 42%, but an audience score of 78%. 'Bad Boys II' is even more impressive with a measly 23%, but an audience score of 78%. So you see, sometimes you've just gotta give those critics the back seat and enjoy yourself without being over-analytical. These movies are as much a Michael Bay stamp as 'Sixth Sense' is to Shyamalan, or 'Jurassic Park' is to Spielberg.