No matter what you think of director Michael Bay, there’s a chuckle to be had when his directorial credit on Bad Boys II comes up over a fiery cross.
Those who loathe him can laugh at the irony of this cinematic hell-demon unleashing yet another piece of trash. But I prefer to think it’s a visual middle finger, a lunatic acknowledgment that the guy simply doesn’t care if people (ahem, critics) think he’s the Antichrist.
Bad Boys II boasts a how-can-they-get-away-with-that vibe that the film’s solid-as-titanium R-rating brings and lots of funny, snappy byplay between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. It’s a loud, occasionally grotesque return to Bay’s gleefully destructive qualities.
Like the cross, the film’s bombastic bloat might even be an in-joke. Bay, Lawrence and Big Willie Style’s britches all have gotten bigger since their original teaming in 1995. And even though the 147 minutes is somewhat taxing, the movie is lots of over the top fun.
Smith and Lawrence play Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, two Miami narcotics cops who latch onto the trail of a massive ecstasy shipment as they infiltrate a Ku Klux Klan rally. (One only presumes the actual Miami Police Department would have the ironic sense of humor to assign two African-American officers in real life.
The convoluted trail leads to Cuban drug dealer Johnny Tapia (Jordi Molla). Past efforts to bust Tapia have not only failed, but resulted in his suing the department and winning. Such abuses of the U.S. judicial system don’t sit well with our heroes, so it at least makes some sense why they can’t resort to normal methods and must destroy Miami and, ultimately, Cuba to take him down.
It’s OK to cringe when seeing Ron Shelton’s name come up as a screenwriter, lest Bad Boys II become a scattered mess a la his Hollywood Homicide. And while this sequel bares his shopworn touchy-feely, male-bonding stamp, more present is the likely work of co-writer Jerry Stahl.
Saddle the stomach up — Bad Boys II features at least five bullets to the head, dismembered bodies, amorous rats, decapitated bodies being run over and sliding into the camera, embalmed kidneys, popped-off heads, iguanas stepping on land mines and exploding torsos. Nasty, but consider Stahl is a former heroin junkie who, if you believe his book, injected into his neck.
And it’s ghastly at times, but Bay keeps things moving at a good-natured clip, Lawrence remembers what it means to be funny (his accidental ecstasy ingestion is a riot), and jaw-dropping action segments (even in a Matrix summer, this chase where cars and boats rocket around the freeway is one of the coolest things ever tossed in an action film.)
Unless it’s on Pearl Harbor as proof he knows jack about narrative and character, the usual knocks on Bay bother me. “He has no spatial coherence.” Just watch the way the camera swoops through the Haitian shootout enough times so you can follow the gunfire. “He pays no attention to the obvious civilian deaths in his movie.” Show me one action film other than Terminator 2: Judgment Day that really does (and even that one, not so much).
Bay shouldn’t have to apologize for being a crackerjack action director, and neither should Bad Boys II for being a crackerjack action movie. It’s not always tasteful and it’s nowhere near as fun as the original, but it’s a slick thrill ride that thankfully has a surprisingly raw, pounding edge.