Bad Boys II
Directed by Michael Bay. Starring Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Jordi Mollà, Gabrielle Union, Peter Stormare, Theresa Randle, Joe Pantoliano, Jon Seda, Henry Rollins. (2003, R, 150 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 18, 2003
Michael Bay, in his first directorial outing since the disappointing Pearl Harbor, returns to familiar territory with this sequel to his lucrative 1995 debut film Bad Boys. The movie also reteams him with producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Beverly Hills Cop, Armageddon, Kangaroo Jack, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl), the oft-reviled and/or -revered moviemaker whose finger-on-the-pulse-of-popular taste has led him to a career marked by a long string of popcorn-pushing spectacles that scorn politically correct ideology and most thinking in general. The first Bad Boys was a modestly budgeted action-comedy that raked in many times its costs at the box office. This time out, the budget was so high that Bad Boys II needs to become an all-time top-grosser in order to make good profits on the investment. Bay and Bruckheimer make sure the viewer gets the sense of seeing all the money invested up on the screen in terms of the amount of vehicles and other things that are blown up or demolished, the free-ranging banter of its two top-paid stars, and the 2 1/2-hour running time that gives new meaning to the word excess. The movie’s length forces our suspension of disbelief for at least an hour more than is comfortable and pushes mindlessness to a dangerous longevity. A fabulously staged car chase on a Miami causeway demolishes dozens of vehicles (and, no doubt, lives), although our heroic leads escape without a scratch. Their captain (played with an excess of quirkiness by Pantoliano) brushes it off by saying, "Well, at least no police were killed." A car chase near the end of the movie has bad boys Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Smith) riding roughshod in a Hummer over an entire Cuban village, decimating scores of homes and land without any visible loss of life. Another car-chase spectacle involves lots of corpses whose mortal remains are further sliced, diced, severed, and decapitated in the commotion. It’s not just human life that’s treated in so careless a manner in Bad Boys II: Similar disregard is shown for police procedure, criminal law, gay acceptance, psychotherapeutic healers, and other technicalities of the law and modern life. Bay also re-employs that memorable bomb’s-eye perspective that worked so fantastically in Pearl Harbor. Bad Boys II has a couple of impressive slow-motion shots of bullet trajectories that are as thrilling as they are stupefying. Another stunning sequence involves a shootout in a house full of angry Rastafarians, in which Bay’s camera performs 360-degree perspectives and all sorts of canny mirror tricks. All the action is also set to a propulsive soundtrack that features a host of today’s top hip-hop stars (many of them stars of P. Diddy’s Bad Boys record label). The film’s routine plot is a meager affair about the importation of Ecstasy tablets into Miami by the Russian and Cuban mobs, a plot (by top writers Jerry Stahl and Ron Shelton) that serves as mere draping for the blow-it-up mayhem. The performances are mechanical as well, even though Smith (who still appears to have most of his pumped-up Mohammed Ali physique intact) and Lawrence seem to be having a blast. Gabrielle Union really comes into her own in this picture as a gun-toting DEA agent who is also conveniently Marcus’ sister and Mike’s love interest. Bad Boys II is not without laughs, and its eye-popping mayhem also achieves its desired effect. It’s just that you leave the theatre thinking less of yourself and humanity as a whole, as though you’ve been to a catered affair that served nothing but a sickening amount of junk food.