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Bad Boys II By Matt Singer
I kept trying to gauge my state of mind as I watched Bad Boys II. At first I was hopeful and optimistic, then somewhat mixed, then more positive, then negative, then confused as the film I watched turned into a thinly veiled retread of an Arnold Schwarzenegger action vehicle from the 1980s. Eight years after the first Bad Boys - which I barely remember - stars Martin Lawrence and Will Smith, director Michael Bay, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer reteam to provide one of the most over the top action films of the summer. Bad Boys II has everything, and it has far more of everything than any person could sensibly want. There is no kitchen sink, but there are rats having sex, which I think serve the same function as a kitchen sink here.
Lawrence and Smith are Miami Detectives Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey. They start the film stinging the KKK members of a drug smuggling ring, revealing themselves from beneath white robes with guns and attitudes drawn. Lawrence and Smith have good on screen chemistry, and while I don’t buy for a second that these two are real cops, I do buy their friendship big time. Marcus has a family and is trying to deal with his issues through therapy, but Mike is content to drive a Ferrari, shoot his guns, and score with women. The conflict between their two diverging theories drives their character scenes, but they’d work better if Will Smith looked less like a perfectly built action star and more like a washed up player who refused to accept that he is past his prime.
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Truth be told, I never quite understood how the KKK element fit in with Cuban drug lord Johnny Tapia (Jordi Molla), who is consolidating his power in Southern Florida and bumping heads with a Russian club owner (Peter Stormare). They had something to do with the coffins that figure into the smugglers’ plans later in the plot, and one of the racists helps out Mike and Marcus, but beyond that, I was lost. Admittedly, it doesn’t matter why anyone does anything - motivation is far less interesting to Bay than the actions they create, and Bad Boys II is loaded top to bottom with action. Bay, who never saw a low angle he didn’t like, can make anything look sexy - taking drugs, bullets flying out of guns, even a guy chucking an iguana over a fence; it’s all presented in the most erotic fashion by Bay - in slo-mo, tight close ups, and swivelling dollies. When Bay helped pioneer this style in films like the first Bad Boys and his best film, The Rock, it looked cool and new, but after almost a decade of imitations, it is starting to look downright old-fashioned.
Bay’s talent for action is undeniable, and Bad Boys II does have some fun scenes. The car chase featured in the advertising where cars are dropped off a trailer at our heroes is a good one, though in a summer that has already seen the chases from The Matrix Reloaded and Terminator 3 it does not have quite the impact it could have had. Bay’s other showiest moment is a gun battle between the cops and a couple of Haitian gangsters, in which the camera swivels around and around both sets of combatants in 360-degree loops as if it was on an invisible track. It does not add much substance to the scene or the film, but it does look good.
But then again, it all looks good, and it certainly should, with a budget this high, and stars and a location this gorgeous. It would be nice if this stuff held together at all, but sitting here a few hours later, I can remember some of the moments, but none of the threads that held them together. I recall laughing at the hilarious scene in the morgue, but I don’t really understand how the cops got there or why they were so obsessed with a warrant when every other action they perform in the film flies in the face of procedure and proper cop work. I know how the cops wind up in Cuba, but I still can’t figure out why they decided the way to end the movie was to restage the final island siege from Commando with a huge effects budget and a yellow Hummer.
At about two hours and twenty minutes, Bad Boys II is about a half hour too long. Bay and Bruckheimer are out to give you your money’s worth, but by the end, your senses have been bludgeoned by so many car chases - two or three more after the one really good one with the flying cars on the bridge - bullet battles, and slo-mo gun reloads, that at some point you want to throw up your hands and just go “Enough already!” I enjoyed the stars’ chemistry, and some of the action scenes, but the film really wears out its welcome with about five too many lengthy explosion-laden sequences. No matter how sexy something is, if you have to stare at it do the same thing for too long, you can get bored.