A year after Sean Penn played the beloved Jeff Spicoli, he dove into the role of Mick O’ Brien, a troubled but sensitive youth who makes a terrible mistake and is sent away to a juvenile detention facility. This film also stars Ally Sheedy, Clancy Brown, and Esai Morales. Mick, in attempting to escape from the police, accidentally runs over and kills Paco Moreno’s little brother. Paco is his nemesis who is constantly making rude remarks to Mick’s girlfriend, J.C. (Sheedy). He is now out for revenge, while Mick is sent to juvie. Only this isn’t any regular juvie; these kids are brutal killers, rapists, drug addicts, and other forms of scum. Mick is housed with Horowitz, a smart kid who bombed a bowling alley, and becomes his friend. Mick feels terrible about what he’s done, as it truly was an accident, but comes to realize just what a mess he has caused for everyone in his life.
Mick is introduced to two guys who sell the cigarettes and other sought-after items and jack up the prices, and two other punks who basically serve as “barn bosses” because they’ve established their power and viciousness, Lofgren and Tweety. They are ruthless and pretty much make meals of any new meat on campus, and no one dares to tangle with them. The boy who arrived with Mick is brutally killed by Tweety, and of course, no one squeals. Mick realizes if he’s going to survive in this place, there’s gotta be a few changes made. He very brilliantly attacks Lofgren and breaks his nose with several soda cans stuffed into a pillow case (ouch!), and becomes barn boss himself. Now, he can get cigarette deals, pass out the weekly chores, and be head honcho. He is fair though, and gives the punks shitty work, and his friends good work; we love Robin Hood types around here! He also passes out the mail, and is revered for his new status as a firm but fair leader. Meanwhile, on the outside, Paco has vowed to avenge his little brother’s death, and violently rapes J.C. When Mick finds out, he and Horowitz make a plan to escape. Horowitz is captured, but Mick makes it to J.C.’s house where they are reunited for only a short time. An understanding guard comes to collect him, and takes him to an actual prison, and tells him this is where he’s going to end up if he doesn’t cut out the bullshit. Paco is arrested and ID’ed by J.C., and is sent to the same juvenile facility Mick is, because everywhere else is overcrowded. Now, everyone is hip to the situation, and begin placing bets on who will kill the other first. Naturally, Paco and Lofgren become buddies. Horowitz tries to help out by rigging a radio to blow up and kill Paco, but Lofgren gets the hit instead, and is injured. Horowitz is sent to solitary confinement, leaving Mick pretty much on his own.
Who will win? Well, I’m not going to tell you! Just watch it! This little gem is relatively unknown by many people, but deserves a lot of credit. It is gritty, realistic, and Sean Penn gives a magnificent performance, just as he always has. Part drama, part crime, this movie has something for everyone. It can be pretty brutal at times, which adds to the level of professionalism by this group of (young at the time) actors. The atmosphere itself is very tense, and just like in a real prison, you never really know what’s going to happen. The plotline itself could very well be set in any time period, but the grittiness and real-life look of many 80s movies makes this one special. When people look up Bad Boys, they will typically be hammered with the Will Smith action flicks, but this is definitely not that.