Movie review by Greg Carlson
A stomach-turning quagmire of wretched excess and capitalist notions of wealthy America’s manifest destiny, “Bad Boys II” is one of the most shockingly horrid movies released in recent memory. It’s not quite “Bloodsucking Freaks” with a budget, but producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay demonstrate again and again that what they possess in the way of chase-scene finesse, they sorely lack in taste. So idiotic is this name-only sequel, audience members will wonder aloud whether Will Smith and Martin Lawrence even bothered to read the screenplay before accepting their handsome salaries.
Set in a fantasy-land version of Miami, where Henry Rollins can pass for the head of the police department’s Tactical Narcotics Team and large scale Ku Klux Klan rallies front drug smuggling operations, “Bad Boys II” plays like an abject TV cop show – sort of a “Miami Vice” from a parallel universe where the writing is no good. Bay’s visuals betray his fascination for “Vice’s” Michael Mann, but he uses a sledgehammer instead of Mann’s scalpel, and the results are boorish, ugly, and simple-minded. Imagine the movie without the charisma of its two appealing leads, and its inherent cruelty would be unbearable.
At roughly 145 minutes, “Bad Boys II” never meets an action sequence it doesn’t like, going so far as to nearly dispense with plot entirely. What little story that does exist concerns the two-man wrecking crew comprised of Lawrence’s Marcus Burnett (the tightly-wound family man) and Smith’s Mike Lowrey (the smooth-talking ladykiller) as they pursue a ruthless Cuban drug kingpin (embarrassingly inhabited by Jordi Molla as a Summer Stock version of Al Pacino’s “Scarface” mobster). Add to the mix NYC-based DEA agent Gabrielle Union (looking completely disoriented) as Marcus’ little sister, a half-dozen plot holes and coincidences, and some flashy sports cars and large explosions, and you’ve got what passes for entertainment these days.
Bruckheimer also produced “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and minus a couple of spectacular shots of things blowing up, the two films could not be any less alike. “Bad Boys II” respects neither the conventions of action movie protocol – its “heroes” are extravagantly self-centered and egomaniacal – nor its audience. One ghastly set-piece, offensive on a variety of levels, sees a van loaded with corpses carom around the streets, spilling bodies on the pavement. Some of the cadavers are then run over by pursuing vehicles, and the head of one unfortunate dead body pops off while Lawrence stifles his urge to vomit. This is supposed to be humorous.
In another scene, the bad boys badger a teenager who has come to take Marcus’ daughter on a date. At the door, Mike pretends to be a drunk ex-con, and threatens the poor kid with sodomy. This is also apparently intended for laughs. Or consider the stunt that sends a canary-yellow Hummer bouncing through a Cuban hillside shantytown, shredding the hardscrabble shacks that are homes to hundreds of people too poor to even attend a movie. The composition unintentionally renders an apocalyptic vision of America’s whip hand crushing any weaker society that doesn’t appreciate late-model SUVs – and the sight is as repugnant as the rest of the movie.
This review was originally published in the High Plains Reader the week of 7/21/03.