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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Michael Bay

01.11.2016

Last week, we took a look at the career of screen great Marlon Brando. This week, we're getting contemporary once again, with a director that's become a polarizing figure for fans. Some love him, some hate him...

Michael Bay
michael bay transformers

Now hear me out. I'm aware Michael Bay isn't exactly a beloved figure to many of our readers. Granted, his Platinum Dunes studio has produced some really bad remakes, while Bay's own TRANSFORMERS-dominated work has become something of an onslaught, with each film seemingly worse than the one before it. However, Bay is a talented guy and with the right material he still has the potential to score a home-run, with early word suggesting this week's 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI may just be that film.

michael bay nicolas cage the rock

In his early days, Bay was among one of the most promising up-and-coming action directors in Hollywood. As much as it's popular to beat up on him, the fact remains that his films all rank among the biggest box-office grossers of all time, so clearly there's an audience out there that loves him. Early-on, I was part of that audience. I remember seeing BAD BOYS in theatres during the spring of 1995 and being amazed at how Bay (with a little help from producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson) was able to turn Will Smith – then known as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air – into a major action star. He did the same thing a year later with Nicolas Cage in THE ROCK, which remains he finest work. Following the tentpole success of ARMAGEDDON, Bay became Hollywood royalty, although the muted box-office reception (and critical mauling) of his ambitious PEARL HARBOR signaled a bit of a turn in his career, where suddenly it became hip to dislike him.

While Bay's work since then has been hit (TRANSFORMERS) and miss (TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN) he's still a force to be reckoned with and a guy who could very well have his best work all ahead of him if he's able to pursue more atypical fare than the tent-pole TRANSFORMERS world he's become an indelible part of.

His Best Work
michael bay nicolas cage sean connery the rock

As much as people like to put Michael Bay down, the fact remains that he directed THE ROCK, one of the best action films of the nineties. This is just an all-around great flick, with Sean Connery in his last great part as a kind of James Bond take-off, Nicolas Cage coming into his own as a legit action hero, and Ed Harris as one of the most memorably conflicted villains ever put on film. THE ROCK was so well-received in 1996 that it was chosen to be part of the Criterion Collection (a big thing in those days) as was his follow-up, ARMAGEDDON. It's kind of a shame Bay never made a sequel to this, as audiences would have no doubt loved to see another Cage/Connery team-up, but the movie itself remains a kind of genre classic, and one of the greatest summer tentpole action movies ever made.

His Most Overrated Film
michael bay the island ewan mcgregor scarlett johansen

A lot of Bay's defenders point to THE ISLAND as one of his most praiseworthy efforts, but I never understood why people enjoyed it so much. It's just as jacked-up and over-the-top as any of his other movies, but the product placement is so prevalent that it becomes a kind of visual pollution. The premise is actually not bad (clones being grown to be used as spare-parts for their owners) but it's too goofy to ever really be taken seriously as a legitimate film. Notably, it's the only Michael Bay film that wasn't a full-on box-office smash (aside from his low-budget experiment, PAIN & GAIN, which still turned a hefty profit).

His Most Underrated Film
michael bay bad boys 2 martin lawrence gabrielle union will smith

I remember the critical mauling BAD BOYS 2 took when it came out in 2003. While the original was a relatively lean urban action movie, with Smith and Bay now megastars, the budget got jacked-up to tentpole levels, and the result was a completely insane, two and a half hour action extravaganza that took Miami cops Smith and Martin Lawrence and put them in the middle of an international caper with some of the most weirdest action sequences ever filmed, including a KKK-shootout filled with scatological humor and more. But you know what? It's kinda brilliant in that it gloriously embraces bad taste, working as a kind-of action movie send up that's turned it into a bit of a cult classic. This is the absolute definition of a guilty pleasure, but it's a film I really enjoy and part of me wishes Bay would just go out and make another ultra-trashy action ride like this one again.  

His Best Scene

While I was tempted to throw in any of the extremely well-crafted action scenes from THE ROCK, our video guy – Nick Bosworth – reasoned with me that if you're doing a tribute to Bay, you've got to throw in the freeway chase scene from BAD BOYS 2. I remember sitting in theaters absolutely astonished by how big-nuts insane this ultra-violent chase was, and I can't think of a single director other than Bay who would have had the guts to spend presumably tens of millions on a scene that likely made the studio very nervous with it coming within a very slight margin of being complete satire. Naturally, Bay himself crosses this line with his later "dumping the corpses" chase in the movie's midsection (complete with a young Michael Shannon in the trunk). “Shit's about to get real.”

His Five Best Films

5. TRANSFORMERS
4. BAD BOYS 2
3. BAD BOYS
2. ARMAGEDDON
1. THE ROCK

Up Next

Bay's 13 HOURS hits theaters this Friday, and with more TRANSFORMERS on the way, Bay's going to be a busy guy for years to come.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Source: JoBlo.com

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6:35PM on 01/11/2016
Completely disagree with your Best Scene. His best scene was the shower standoff between the Navy Seals and the Marines - particularly Ed Harris and Michael Biehn facing off. The scene has it all: tense atmosphere, great dialogue, and two great actors and characters not backing down. And the finale is great too. Should've gone with your gut and not the video guy (no offense, Nick).
Completely disagree with your Best Scene. His best scene was the shower standoff between the Navy Seals and the Marines - particularly Ed Harris and Michael Biehn facing off. The scene has it all: tense atmosphere, great dialogue, and two great actors and characters not backing down. And the finale is great too. Should've gone with your gut and not the video guy (no offense, Nick).
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5:27PM on 01/11/2016
I don't understand why Bay became the Nickelback of cinema.. Guy has always entertained me. Transformers 4 was wayyyyyyy too long however it still looked amazing. His only movie I haven't seen is Pearl Harbor but all the rest enjoy to an extant. Bad Boys 2 was the first bad ass action movie that I owned on dvd. Love it to this day.
1. Bad Boys/ Bad Boys 2
2. The Rock
3. Transformers
4. Pain and Gain
5. The Island
I don't understand why Bay became the Nickelback of cinema.. Guy has always entertained me. Transformers 4 was wayyyyyyy too long however it still looked amazing. His only movie I haven't seen is Pearl Harbor but all the rest enjoy to an extant. Bad Boys 2 was the first bad ass action movie that I owned on dvd. Love it to this day.
1. Bad Boys/ Bad Boys 2
2. The Rock
3. Transformers
4. Pain and Gain
5. The Island
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4:04PM on 01/11/2016
This is why Bay needs to direct the BAYWATCH movie.
This is why Bay needs to direct the BAYWATCH movie.
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1:16PM on 01/11/2016

Pain & Gain

I'd put Pain & Gain up there as his most underrated. It's a crazy little movie and everyone seems to be ball to the wall in it.
I'd put Pain & Gain up there as his most underrated. It's a crazy little movie and everyone seems to be ball to the wall in it.
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+2
11:29AM on 01/11/2016

Bay

Overall, I feel like Michael Bay has done good work. He's given us some great action flicks and stood out from the rest. Of course he has had some major letdowns mixed in, but I'm willing to look past them. In closing, I really like and enjoy The Island. I was a fan when it came out, and I still enjoyed it when I re-watched it a month or two ago.
Overall, I feel like Michael Bay has done good work. He's given us some great action flicks and stood out from the rest. Of course he has had some major letdowns mixed in, but I'm willing to look past them. In closing, I really like and enjoy The Island. I was a fan when it came out, and I still enjoyed it when I re-watched it a month or two ago.
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10:57AM on 01/11/2016
All things equal, he's certainly left his mark. The Rock is one of my favorite straight-up action films. The Island is HALF a good movie. There is so much potential in that film, and Ewan McGregor's Tom Lincoln nearly steals the show (less so, his clone). Sometimes his movies work best as parody, and indeed, the action scenes in Hot Fuzz owe a direct debt to Bay's work.
All things equal, he's certainly left his mark. The Rock is one of my favorite straight-up action films. The Island is HALF a good movie. There is so much potential in that film, and Ewan McGregor's Tom Lincoln nearly steals the show (less so, his clone). Sometimes his movies work best as parody, and indeed, the action scenes in Hot Fuzz owe a direct debt to Bay's work.
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10:15AM on 01/11/2016

wish he'd get back to crazy big budget R-rated action

To those that diss him, can you imagine what he could've done with the last 'Die Hard'? sure it wouldve been cranked to 11 for three hours but at least it wouldve felt like a explosive action movie instead of the damp squid we got. I'm a 90s kid and would always look forward to the next Bay movie reaching cinemas. He was like the idiot love child of Tony Scott and James Cameron and it resulted in some fun but dumb flicks. He's recently just turned into the Transformers guy and im always wishing
To those that diss him, can you imagine what he could've done with the last 'Die Hard'? sure it wouldve been cranked to 11 for three hours but at least it wouldve felt like a explosive action movie instead of the damp squid we got. I'm a 90s kid and would always look forward to the next Bay movie reaching cinemas. He was like the idiot love child of Tony Scott and James Cameron and it resulted in some fun but dumb flicks. He's recently just turned into the Transformers guy and im always wishing the next will be his last (although it will probably never happen) so he can get back to bad ass R-rated action movies (with a 90 min runtime). Hope '13' is a return to his roots.
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9:15AM on 01/11/2016
I'm one of those people who will use The Island to defend Bay, or at least I was before the Transformers movies. Look, if you're just looking for dumb action movies that require almost no thought whatsoever, then Bay is solid. But he's one of the most repetitive filmmakers out there. And Bad Boys 2? Sorry, guess I will be in the minority here also-I loved Bad Boys, but Bad Boys 2 is terrible. It's just my opinion and I'm allowed to have it. I am so sick of those Michael Bay camera shots too,
I'm one of those people who will use The Island to defend Bay, or at least I was before the Transformers movies. Look, if you're just looking for dumb action movies that require almost no thought whatsoever, then Bay is solid. But he's one of the most repetitive filmmakers out there. And Bad Boys 2? Sorry, guess I will be in the minority here also-I loved Bad Boys, but Bad Boys 2 is terrible. It's just my opinion and I'm allowed to have it. I am so sick of those Michael Bay camera shots too, and what's sad is good directors are starting to use them also (ie Ron Howard's In The Heart of the Sea). Now all that aside, I am genuinely looking forward 13 Hours. It looks like a decent political actioner.
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7:21AM on 01/11/2016
Bay is a badass alright. He's good when he put his mind to it but sometimes he goes overboard (i.e. long running time of Transformers Age of Extinction). However, I think his most underrated work is The Island whereas Bad Boys 2 is his most overrated work. In my opinion, The Island is Bay's best work - a science fiction with style and substance in it. To me it's like British TV series The Prisoners meets Logan's Run.
Bay is a badass alright. He's good when he put his mind to it but sometimes he goes overboard (i.e. long running time of Transformers Age of Extinction). However, I think his most underrated work is The Island whereas Bad Boys 2 is his most overrated work. In my opinion, The Island is Bay's best work - a science fiction with style and substance in it. To me it's like British TV series The Prisoners meets Logan's Run.
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4:57AM on 01/11/2016
I love his pre-transformer films, although I do find the robots slightly entertaining. I would put The Island as his most underrated film. I loved it back then and still do.
I love his pre-transformer films, although I do find the robots slightly entertaining. I would put The Island as his most underrated film. I loved it back then and still do.
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1:25AM on 01/11/2016
Michael Bay, give me Bad Boys 3 and nothing else.
Michael Bay, give me Bad Boys 3 and nothing else.
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1:23AM on 01/11/2016
I consider Armageddon one of the main examples of how to do a big budget popcorn movie right. Still holds up (at least to me) to this day and it gets me every time when Bruce Willis' character has to say goodbye to Liv Tyler.
I consider Armageddon one of the main examples of how to do a big budget popcorn movie right. Still holds up (at least to me) to this day and it gets me every time when Bruce Willis' character has to say goodbye to Liv Tyler.
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12:33AM on 01/11/2016
I have always held Armageddon as the worst film ever made. The Rock is just plain dumb and we all know about The Transformers.
He churns out profitable films and that's what studios and financiers want. So in that sense he is a capable director and a great producer. And an artist, he is not one.
I have always held Armageddon as the worst film ever made. The Rock is just plain dumb and we all know about The Transformers.
He churns out profitable films and that's what studios and financiers want. So in that sense he is a capable director and a great producer. And an artist, he is not one.
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12:17AM on 01/11/2016
have LOVED this mans style and films since day 1 (even the transformers movies, regardless of them being a lowpoint in his career). The man makes Exhilirating Testosterone Fueled films that satisfies that primal urge that all men feel. People shit on him because its hip to do so which is completely stupid. The Rock, Armageddon,Bad Boys 2, Transformers 1, are amongst his best work. Love it!
have LOVED this mans style and films since day 1 (even the transformers movies, regardless of them being a lowpoint in his career). The man makes Exhilirating Testosterone Fueled films that satisfies that primal urge that all men feel. People shit on him because its hip to do so which is completely stupid. The Rock, Armageddon,Bad Boys 2, Transformers 1, are amongst his best work. Love it!
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