We recommend Bad Boys II, but only because our standards have so slipped that all we now crave is free air conditioning.
We recommend Bad Boys II, but only because our standards have so slipped that all we now crave is free air conditioning.

Bad Boys of Dumber

There's something to be said for a movie that's honest enough to transcribe dialogue from the director's mouth and incorporate it into the script. "Everybody start shooting at somebody!" yells Detective Mike Lowery (Will Smith) in the midst of a particular situation. Earlier, he gives the command to "drive that ambulance into the building!" Fellini it ain't; hell, James Ellroy it ain't. But this is, after all, a Michael Bay film. What did you expect?

Bad Boys II, the not-especially-awaited sequel to Bay's 1995 feature debut, is not going to win him or producer Jerry Bruckheimer many points with critics, not that either man could do so if he tried. It may, however, win points with the moviegoing public, or more particularly those who've become very disillusioned with Bay following his craptacular previous two films (Armageddon and Pearl Harbor), which featured PG-13 ratings and Ben Affleck at his very worst, which is saying a lot. Those who prefer their movies with nuance and levels of meaning may not appreciate this, but action movie fans know that there was a big difference between the unrestrained over-the-top Bay-Bruckheimer collaborations (Bad Boys, The Rock), and the pandering teenybopper Affleck vehicles. Let Bay go over the top, and he rocks. Rein him in, and you might manage a good opening weekend but not a great deal more.

In general, Bad Boys II is Bay unleashed. This is a good thing when it comes to action sequences--fans of excessive spectacle will definitely dig the car chases that involve flying cadavers. It's a bit less of a good thing between said moments of spectacle, as Bay (who cameos onscreen as "Crappy Car Driver") seems determined to prove he can pull off the quiet moments as well. Nothing wrong with that, in theory: Cool-down scenes, if done right, help to pace an action movie and make the next chase all the more heart-pumping. But the key is if done right; Bad Boys II runs almost two and a half hours, and a lot of it feels like filler.


Bad Boys II

In the eight years since the first Bad Boys, little has changed plotwise, except that Tea Leoni has mercifully disappeared to be replaced by Gabrielle Union. Joe Pantoliano is still the exasperated Miami police chief who stresses out when his top cops blow shit up while managing to let every shred of evidence either evaporate or get pilfered at the last minute, and Theresa Randle's still around as Martin Lawrence's wife, only the actress' once-hot career seems to have dried up, so no one in the audience remembers who she is anymore. Real-life events in the careers of Smith and Lawrence, however, have given their roles a level of irony that was likely not intended--having Smith play the brash playboy who waves guns around and Lawrence as the responsible family man now feels like a deliberately perverse joke.

It's good to see Lawrence back together with Smith, and not only because Lawrence has made some god-awful movies in the past few years: Pairing him with Smith doesn't allow Lawrence to fall back on his tired keepin'-a-brutha-down shtick, which always did feel phony coming from a $20-mil-per-paycheck performer. As for Smith, he never lost his charisma but did lose audience good will with the (somewhat unfairly) maligned Wild Wild West and MIIB: Men in Black II, in part because of the annoying tie-in videos he made for both films. Here, the music is left to composer Trevor Rabin and Dr. Dre, who literally do a bang-up job.

There's no plot to get in the way of the story. What little narrative strands there are could possibly be deciphered by someone truly dedicated, but there really isn't any point, when it all boils down to an evil Cuban drug dealer (Blow's Jordi Mollà, boring) and his henchmen being chased by Smith and Lawrence. Who knows what the blond Haitian Rastafarians have to do with anything, or why the Ku Klux Klan decides to stage a cross-burning on the waterfront in plain sight to celebrate the smuggling of narcotics. And what's the deal with Peter Stormare's campy Russian gangster or Ultimate Fighter Oleg Taktarov as his incompetent associate? Don't know, don't care. Stuff gets smashed up real nice, though.

Some of the action bits feel like déjà vu, playing like revisions of stuff found in other films, only louder and larger (Jackie Chan's Police Story and Beverly Hills Cop are but two of the obvious inspirations). For the purposes of most who'll go see this film, however, that matters not a whit. Two and a half hours in an air-conditioned theater filled with explosions, crashes and the odd truly funny bit of interplay between the stars, served up with a gleeful heaping of gratuitous profanity, may be exactly what the summer needs, and that's precisely what Bad Boys II delivers.


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