Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Gabrielle Union, Joe Pantoliano, Jordi Molla
At 150 minutes, Bad Boys II doesn't so much burst into theaters as its elephantine self lumbers onto the screen and then refuses to leave, erupting every few minutes with overblown action sequences like some kind of cinematic flatulence. The film is too big, too loud, too stupid, too tasteless and way, way, way too long. In other words, it's every bit as bad as you probably expected.
What makes it occasionally interesting -- that is, in the same way that a pathologist might be intrigued by a tumor -- is the way in which it is bad. Lots of lousy movies are made every year -- and it's not unusual to see producer Jerry Bruckheimer's name attached to them (fortunately, his soul-mate director, Michael Bay, is less prolific). But even their films rarely this loathsome -- and I don't know that I've ever seen one this stupidly inflated. It's as if Bruckhemier and Bay have confused length with quality ("Hey, if we drag it out where it's even longer than Black Hawk Down, people will think it's actually important!").
But excess footage doth not equal the cop-buddy version of the Bruckheimer-produced Black Hawk Down; it merely makes BBII into National Security in dire need of a trip to Jenny Craig. The film certainly doesn't have 150 minutes of plot; the storyline is one-sentence-simple: "Bad boy" cops Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) bring down drug lord Johnny Tappia (Jordi Molla). That's it. There's simply no other story -- presumably because anything more might get in the way of all the death, property damage, car crashes and endless bickering between the film's two stars.
Rumor is that it took from 1995 till now for everyone involved to settle on a script (if this is the winner, I'm very glad I didn't read the ones that were rejected). And what they have here is largely filched from other movies. In no particular order, we are treated to such original concepts as a falling-out between buddies when one gets involved with the other's sister, one cop putting in for a transfer because he just can't deal with his partner's loose-cannon tendencies any longer, a drug lord who thinks he's Al Pacino in Brian De Palma's remake of Scarface, and on and on.
BBII constantly reminded me of a lot of other moves -- Tango and Cash, The Front Page, Miller's Crossing, Monkey Bone and the aforementioned Scarface. And for all its inflated budget, the film is stupidly sloppy. Marcus Burnett lives in a house that would easily command $1.5 million in the Miami real-estate market. You show me a cop with a house like this, and I'll show you an officer under investigation by I.A.D. But Marcus can't afford an in-ground pool (even though we clearly see one through the French doors in his living room). This makes no sense, but it sets up a lame gag that Bruckheimer and Bay like so well that they revisit it for the movie's tag scene.
Late in the film -- during the preposterous invasion of Tappia's mansion -- there's a big setup involving the drug lord's mother and daughter, but BBII never bothers to follow this up -- unless I blinked and missed it. I'm guessing the pair were killed in the explosion that levels Tappia's house, but the film can't be bothered with sharing this, even though BBII just had to contain a lengthy, superfluous scene where our heroes pointlessly browbeat the hapless 15-year-old nerd who comes to take Marcus' daughter on a date. However, all this just makes for a bad movie. And Bad Boys II isn't just bad. It's vile.
The film's reckless disregard for human life (not to mention human death) and other people's property may even exceed its mindless penchant for explosions. BBII is nothing short of fetishistic in its depiction of carnage. An early scene in which a slow-mo bullet plows through some water bottles, takes a chunk out of Lawrence's butt and ends up gorily and lovingly dispatching a drug-running member of the KKK sets the tone for the entire film. Yet that's only the tip of the iceberg -- and an iceberg it is. This is a cold, cruel, completely desensitized movie where a woman's naked corpse (referred to as "the bimbo") is both a subject for creepily necrophilic interest and truly sick comedy. Equally dubious is the fact that Lawrence's scene with the dead woman isn't anything more than a variant on any number of old Hollywood movies with an eye-rolling black caricature.
It's perhaps telling that another scene involving a body lodged on our heroes' windshield (yes, there are lots of scenes using corpses for laughs) reminded me of nothing so much as a dreadfully racist bit with Hattie McDaniel in the grade-Z horror flick Murder by Television, where no one bothered to write anything for her, leaving her to just keep repeating, "No, you don't, honey.; this am my meat," a half dozen times. Will Smith gets the honors here, repeatedly shouting, "This is nasty s**t," before the dead man finally falls from the car to suffer the further indignity of being run over (insert next laugh here).
I suppose a case can -- and probably will -- be made that the movie is merely being a pitch-black comedy. But that presupposes a level of intellectualism that BBII clearly doesn't possess, and the argument won't hold water when applied to such scenes as when our heroes plow through a Cuban shanty town mindlessly destroying everything -- and seemingly everyone -- in sight with a blithe attitude of "Oh, it doesn't matter, since some of these people are manufacturing cocaine." Even that "excuse" is really nothing more than a setup so the shanties can explode as our two cops crash through them.
No, this movie isn't black comedy. It's more akin to some kind of truly twisted pornography that makes a fetish out of death and destruction.
-- reviewed by Ken Hanke