Saturday, June 1, 2024

Review: "BAD BOYS II": What'cha Gonna Do 'Cept Watch This

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 114 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Bad Boys II (2003)
Running time:  147 minutes (2 hours, 27 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence and action, pervasive language, sexuality and drug content
DIRECTOR:  Michael Bay
WRITERS:  Ron Shelton and Jerry Stahl; from a story by Cormac Wibberley & Marianne Wibberley and Ron Shelton (based upon the characters created by George Gallo)
PRODUCER:  Jerry Bruckheimer
EDITORS:  Roger Barton, Mark Goldblatt, and Thomas A. Muldoon
COMPOSER:  Trevor Rabin


Starring:  Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Gabrielle Union, Joe Pantoliano, Theresa Randle, Jordi Molla, Gary Nickens, Jason Manuel Olazabal, John Salley, Henry Rollins, and Dan Marino

Bad Boys II is a 2003 American buddy-cop film and action-comedy from director Michael Bay.  It is a sequel to the 1995 film, Bad Boys, and is also the second film in the Bad Boys film series.  In Bad Boys II, loose-cannon Detectives Burnett and Lowrey investigate the flow of illegal drugs into Miami and end up on the middle of a battle for control of the ecstasy trade.

In a crowded field of auteurs, director Michael Bay (The Rock, Armageddon) strives to become the director god of action movies; indeed, he may already be there.  He returns for the sequel to Bad Boys, the film that put him on the map as a big time director of insane gunfights, fiery explosions, and slow motion ballets of unabashed violence.  And since we must not worship any god before the god, this Zeus of adrenaline films unleashes a film of wall-to-wall mayhem that overwhelms the audience to paranoiac exhaustion just to show us what he can do.

Bay is fortunate (if a god can ever be called fortunate) to have two talents who are very good at what they do, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith.  It’s ironic that these roles weren’t originally written for them, but the two actor/comedians have made the bad boys, Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Smith) of Bad Boys II, their own because Burnett and Lowrey could not exist without them.

The plot is a confused half-assed muddle involving stereotypical Russian, Cuban, Jamaican, and redneck drug dealers battling it out in Miami for control of the ecstasy trade.  If that wasn’t addled enough, Marcus’s sister, Sydney (the beautiful and sexy Gabrielle Union), is an undercover DEA agent caught in the middle of some mismanaged surveillance operation of a Russian and Cuban money-laundering scheme.

Smith and Lawrence are absolutely wonderful as the bad boys.  They have to be because they’re on a very short list of actors whom Michael Bay cannot overwhelm with his thunderous conflagrations of balls-to-the-walls violence.  Smith is pure bravado, sweating confidence with cartoonish machismo.  His physical bearing and rapid-fire delivery of his dialogue create a seamless presence in the film that leads you to believe that Smith is always Lowery, even when you know that a stunt guy has to step in every now and then.  He’s no bossy director’s action marionette or pretty boy A-list actor frontin’ like he’s all that.  Smith is all that.

When he has good material, Martin Lawrence is a riot act of physical and facial humor.  He’s a comedian, born to make us laugh despite his own personal demons.  Lately, he’s sold himself for movies that treat him like a minstrel, when he’s at his best skewering the mainstream.  In Bad Boy II, he reveals himself to be the best graduate of the Richard Pryor school of facial contortions, which Lawrence uses to grand effect to make us believe that the film’s juggernaut of violence actually scares him.

Even the overwhelming performances of Smith and Lawrence are almost no match for the overwhelming violence of Bad Boys II, but the actors are game.  They do an admirable job keeping up with the exploding body parts, flying corpses, decapitated corpses, defiled corpses, gunshot wounds, gratuitous ass shots, the bare breasts of a naked corpse, flying cars, disintegrating cars, exploding cars, car wrecks, car crashes, and flesh wounds to the buttocks.  There was a point early in the film when I was sure that Michael Bay was a fabulous artist of the absurd, cinema his canvas, and wanton violence his raw materials.  The action was great and invigorating, the violence was cathartic and deliriously funny, and I wanted to revel in the excess.  Lawrence and Smith were so on that I screamed with the kind of laughter I reserve for classic Richard Pryor, Mel Brooks, Marx Brothers, Lenny Bruce, and Burns and Allen.

After awhile, I realized that this was as much popcorn cinema as it was art.  I still believe that Bay is on to something.  One day, we will see him a great filmmaker who pushed the envelope with his inventiveness and imagination, but in Bad Boys II, he went too far too soon.  It’s more popcorn than an even an audience ravenously hungry for Circus Maximus bedlam can stomach.  With this film, Bay made the mistake that Martin Scorsese did with Gangs of New York:  end the picture early enough and he has a cinematic classic, a truly great film.  Overstay his welcome, and the director spoils his film.

As mean-spirited as this film gets, I’d still recommend this to die hard action fans and fans of Smith and Lawrence.  I’d only recommend that they just have a bib ready for when you spit up from overeating this cinematic pandemonium.

6 of 10
★★★ out of 4 stars

Edited:  Monday, July 1, 2024

2004 Image Awards (NAACP):  3 nominations: “Outstanding Motion Picture,” “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Will Smith), and “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Gabrielle Union)

2004 Black Reel Awards:  1 nomination: “Film: Best Soundtrack”

The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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