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Bad Boys II (R)
Columbia Pictures
Official Site
Director: Michael Bay
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Screenwriters: Ron Shelton, Jerry Stahl
Cast: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Gabrielle Union

Rating: out of 5

Drug dealers beware! Despite the nation’s preoccupation with the war on terror Hollywood moviemakers still have you in their sights. After an eight-year hiatus, Miami narcotics detectives Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Burnet (Lawrence) are back on the job, this time hot on the trail of a Cuban ecstasy smuggler. Marcus’s little sister Sydney (Gabrielle Union) is also along for the ride as an undercover DEA agent assigned to crack the case. Very little has changed for the two protagonists. Their shoot first, wisecrack later method of law enforcement is as effective as ever. Everything has changed for director Michael Bay. Now a major player in the industry, he has been given complete artistic control to carry out his “vision.”

Bad Boys II is so excessive it tests the audience’s gluttony for punishment. This punishment comes in the form of loud explosions, gory slow motion death sequences, and some rather tasteless humor. The bodies pile up—sometimes not even the bodies of people killed by the protagonists. This movie features so many corpses that one suspects the special effects company gave Bay a quantity discount. While in the line of duty the audience will be subjected to not one, not two, but three car chases, several megatons of explosives, and more small arms fire than was discharged in the entire second gulf war. Two of the car chases feel as though they were included for the sole purpose of advertising the cars involved.

Michael Bay’s style is so pervasive throughout the entire movie he might as well have strolled across the screen a la Alfred Hitchcock. An army of men in Kevlar and GoreTex emerges from the water in slow motion, reflective liquid dripping off of their shiny black guns, their SWAT stencils gleaming in the light. During all three of the car chases the camera jumps back and forth between the faces of the drivers inside and the mayhem outside. Even when the actors are still the camera isn’t. It’s constantly circling from below, imbuing the movie with a frenetic energy. Every explosion is a gorgeous orange in stark contrast to the deep blue sky in the background. Make no mistake, the movie is beautiful. It just would be nice for Michael Bay to have tried something new.

Whenever the screen is not dominated by violent chaos, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence do their banter. Some of the humor is tasteless and all of it is predictable, but surprisingly a great deal of it is funny. Whenever both stars are on screen their comic chemistry more than makes up for shortcomings in the script. As the straight man to Lawrence’s fool, Smith’s talents could have been put to better use, and the gags that Martin attempts to pull by himself often fall flat. Aided by perfect lighting and spectacular wardrobes for Smith and Union, the “good” actors all look good, and the bad guys sport sinister five o’clock shadows and furtive eyes, when they aren’t wearing sunglasses.

Bad Boys II is, yes, the ultimate triumph of style over substance, at least until the next Michael Bay movie comes along. The movie’s many beautiful action sequences lack a larger context to place themselves in, making their viewing an ephemeral pleasure. The movie probably keeps such a white-knuckle pace to distract the audience from its vapidity. Another flaw is the stereotypical raving drug dealer antagonist. At the movie’s lengthy two-and-a-half hour running time, it would have been nice to have a bit more character insight so that his downfall would bring some personal satisfaction for the audience. Most importantly for some, Will Smith does not take off his shirt until the very end of the movie, and even then it does not approach the glory of the famous scene in the original Bad Boys. Bad Boys II has to be seen in theaters to get the most out of it; there it will provide a beautiful, but flawed movie experience.

—Woodrow Bogucki


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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