Mark Reviews Movies

BAD BOYS II

1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Gabrielle Union, Jordi Mollá, Joe Pantoliano

MPAA Rating: R (for strong violence and action, pervasive language, sexuality and drug content)

Running Time: 2:30

Release Date: 7/18/03


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Review by Mark Dujsik

Thinking about Bad Boys now brings a sense of nostalgia. It was 1995. We had no idea who Michael Bay was. I appreciated the movie's style and enjoyed Will Smith and Martin Lawrence's chemistry. I remember the opening heist sequence as being inventive and skillful. It was a year before Bay made The Rock, his magnum opus. Then came Armageddon with a gigantic budget and the director's free-reign, and we saw his true form. And I doubt anyone needs to be reminded about Pearl Harbor . Critic Ian Waldron-Mantgani once made a slight criticism of Bay, and I recall it was, "[H]e's a disease merchant."  The disease is idiocy, and Bad Boys II is full of it. All of those little details and clichés that avid filmgoers mock are here, played straight for excitement and drama. Things blow up for no reason. The camera lingers on the assets of women because, well, they're there. There's lots of slow motion. Testosterone, homophobia, and misogyny ooze from the seams of what passes for the script while bullets, cars, boats, and corpses fly through the air. It's big, loud, about half-an-hour to an hour overlong, and devoid of the things that make big, loud action flicks entertaining.

The remnants of the plot find Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Smith) continuing their work as Miami narcotics officers with unconventional tactics. There's an ecstasy problem in the city, and after being tipped off to a huge shipment, they must infiltrate a KKK rally to stop it. Things go a little wrong, and lots of people end up dead or wounded. The biggest problem, though, is that the shipment is far less than expected. Things are amiss. Marcus' sister Sydney (Gabrielle Union) has arrived from New York to work, which she insists consists of pushing papers, with the DEA. Mike is having trouble telling Marcus that he and Sydney are an item. Marcus is dealing with therapy and is ready to transfer to a new precinct once this case is over. Lots of secrets are hanging in the air. What will set the course for the rest of the movie is Sydney 's real involvement in the drug ring. As it turns out, she's actually undercover with the DEA trying to secure a conviction of drug lord Johnny Tapia (an off-the-mark Jordi Mollá), who is using a local mortuary as a front for his smuggling.

This turn leads to a pair of scenes involving corpses that are simply begging to be criticized for bad taste. The first is a chase scene through the streets as Marcus and Mike chase after a van containing a casket full of drugs or money and transporting cadavers. Of course, the back of the van opens up, sending the bodies falling under the tires, at the windshield, and on the roof. In a completely gratuitous case of tastelessness, one of the bodies is decapitated. Then during an investigation at the mortuary, beyond the instances of digging through dead bodies, there's a disturbing moment of necrophilia on the part of the filmmakers. Soon after, Marcus finds himself accidentally on ecstasy, and in a scene of hypocrisy, his trip is played off for laughs. Apparently, screenwriters Ron Shelton and Jerry Stahl forgot that their main characters, by their mere existence, are meant to represent the seriousness of the drug issue. Beyond whatever stance one wants to take on the issue, the scene is out of place. Also unnecessary is a scene where the two guys are broadcast over the televisions at an electronics store—their conversation taken out of context, of course. Predictably, everyone thinks they're gay, and a random woman's reaction at the end is completely uncalled for.

These scenes are unfunny, offensive, and disturbing and only serve to extend the running time, but the ludicrously overblown action scenes are stretched further than needed as well. The opening scene plays out like a trailer with incredibly quick cuts and information spread across multiple shots that could have been established in one. Bay and editors Roger Barton, Mark Goldblatt, and Tom Muldoon (three are responsible for this?) take this bloated approach for the rest of the action sequences, leading to two problems: incoherency and the loss of a sense of place and time. When Bay does make allowances for longer shots, like during dialogue scenes, he insists on spinning the camera around his subjects for no apparent reason. When that fails, the likelihood of slow motion showing up in a shot is high. Ridiculous things happen. Cops and gang members shot at each other and into crowds of people, although the innocents seem to disappear when in danger. In one sequence, Mike, Marcus, and Sydney drive down a hill in Cuba (don't ask how they get there) occupied by huts for the production of cocaine, and of course they blow up for no reason.

Things randomly blow up a lot in Bad Boys II, and Martin Lawrence and Will Smith bicker and fight just as much. They're a likable enough pair, but their squabbles get old quickly during the action. The action itself does, too, and it ends appropriately abruptly. But not before the screenwriters write themselves into a corner in the final showdown and are forced to use a cheap deus ex machina to get themselves out—one last symptom of the disease.

Copyright © 2003 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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