“Bad Boys II” has opened up to mostly terrible reviews across the country. I’ll admit that I expected to hate the film, put off by its 144-minute length. I’ve never liked Will Smith all that much, and I have never been a fan of the comic relief character in action films, let alone two. But I won’t lie, even if this film has its problems, it’s also a lot of fun.
The first “Bad Boys” ended up a huge hit that remade the careers of just about everyone involved. Eight years later, it’s a strong return for everyone involved. Smith had poor showings with “Wild Wild West,” “Ali,” and “Men in Black II.” Michael Bay’s last effort was the disappointing “Pearl Harbor” and Martin Lawrence… well, when your crowning achievement is “Big Momma’s House,” what can you really say?
This time out, narcotics detectives Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) are assigned to a high-tech task force investigating the flow of designer ecstasy into Miami. This leads them to a conspiracy involving a vicious Cuban dope Czar (Jordi Molla), whose ambitions have ignited a bloody turf war with Russian mobster Alexei (Peter Stormare). Complications ensue when Mike develops feelings for Marcus’ sister Syd (Gabrielle Union) who is secretly working for the D.E.A.
Director Michael Bay’s and producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s stroke-inducing, rabid editing style results in a movie that is entertaining, exciting and gives new meaning to that overused phrase “over the top.”
If you want to be grabbed by the throat and throttled relentlessly, then Bay is your man. The body count is excessively high, shots occasionally last longer than half a second and the effects of violence are never given a moment’s concern. It’s as if the concept of subtlety was beaten and lynched on the first day of shooting. (In his defense Bay did the “The Rock” which still holds up as one of the top action films of all time).
The movie’s showcase scene is a “To Live and Die in L.A.”-style freeway chase, brilliantly shot and staged with an impressively crazed imagination. It easily beats out the ones in “2 Fast 2 Furious” and “The Italian Job,” which is impressive because the film’s budget was under 80 million. (It still could not touch the stunning action sequence in Terminator III”).
The relationship between Lawrence and Smith is hit-and-miss, but most of the time they are actually pretty funny. It was annoying the 18th time something blew up and Lawrence looked over at Smith and screamed “Oh ****!!” Overall Smith and Lawrence are genuinely funny guys, who have a lot of fun together trading insults and advice.
Their witty banter defies the chaos around them. It doesn’t really matter than nothing makes sense; they’re just in it for the kicks. (Think “Hollywood Homicide”- the very talented Ron Shelton co-wrote both screenplays).
Smith’s charm, a touch hip-hop, but friendly enough for middle America, goes a long way towards taking the sting out of the film’s shootings, explosions, and fast-multiplying dead bodies. (It should also be noted that Smith has maintained his imposing “Ali” physicality and his arms could legitimately be called guns).
I’ll admit there are crude moments in the film, including severed fingers, dismembered criminals, and falling corpses. The low point is where a Hummer speeds down a hillside in Cuba entirely covered by the tarpaper shanties of the working class. As the Hummer cuts a path of destruction through the settlement, walls, roofs, iron and curtains are dismantled faster than Kobe Bryant’s image. Dozens of residents must have been killed, but hey, it was visually stunning.
Unlike “The Hulk” and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Bad Boys II” didn’t seem to wear out it’s welcome. The action scenes are loud and in your face and I found myself laughing more often then not at Lawrence and Smith’s tomfoolery. It’s over the top, no question. You could call it a tasteless, non-stop assault of the senses and you’d be correct. But like the Stones say: “I know it’s only Rock n Roll, but I like it.” (B to B+)
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