Bad Boys II (United States, 2002)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

The only thing as bad as bad comedy is bad action. Bad Boys II has plenty of both. In fact, those two things are all it has, unless you count the small helping of bad drama. When it comes to this movie, the word "bad" initially seems highly appropriate. But Bad Boys II isn't just bad - it's a catastrophic violation of every aspect of cinema that I as a film critic hold dear. It seems to have been constructed with terms like "unwatchable" and "godawful" as its slogans. There are motion picture failures every year - the resumes of Hollywood players are littered with them. But, when something this big - a would-be blockbuster with recognizable names in the cast and crew - collapses in such a spectacular fashion, it's worth taking note. Think of how many starving children could have been fed with the money that was poured into Michael Bay's latest sinkhole.

The average summer action movie aspires to be nothing more than a "lobotomy flick" - a motion picture enjoyable only by those who turn off the thinking centers of their minds while in the theater. The original Bad Boys was such a film - an excursion into pyrotechnic buddy movie mediocrity. Would that such a high compliment could be paid to its successor. Watching Bad Boys II is a singularly unpleasant prospect. Not only is it exceedingly long (the result of titanic self-indulgence and the inability of director Bay to cut anything), but each scene is worse than the one before, making the viewing experience akin to a plunge into the lowest depths of hell. Anyone who truly enjoys this movie may wish to consider seeking professional help - if they're not already beyond it.

The paper-thin storyline involves Miami PD partners Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) as they attempt to take down Cuban drug kingpin Johnny Tapia (Jordi Molla) on those rare occasions when they're not too busy bitching at each other. Johnny, with the help of a Russian mobster (Peter Stormare), is flooding the West Coast with Ecstasy. Along the way, the two "bad boys" encounter their share of trouble, including car chases, shootouts, and explosions. Mike tries to hide his blooming relationship with DEA officer Sydney Burnett (Gabrielle Union), Marcus' sister, from his partner. And Marcus avoids telling Mike that he wants a transfer.

The action sequences are worse than routine - they're boring. They all follow much the same pattern: explosions, gunfire, someone rolling on the ground in slow motion, the camera circling the action two or three times, rapid-fire cuts so fast that you don't know what the hell is happening, more explosions, more fast cuts, more slow motion, and so on - until you want to scream out "MAKE IT STOP!!!" Since the projectionist will be asleep by this point, such a merciful blessing is unlikely to occur. Once in a while, Bay will vary things by throwing in a shaky handheld shot in between one slow motion shot and the next one. Or he will have a character utter an unbelievably inane line of dialogue. If I didn't know better, I would be tempted to think that Bay was attempting to parody big-budget action movies, but Bad Boys II doesn't give off the right vibes for a satire.

Not that it expects to be taken totally serious. There are plenty of stabs at comedy - although none of them hit the funny bone. It is said that any subject, no matter how taboo, can be the subject of humor. Monty Python proved that. The key is that the material has to be funny. If it misses the mark, you end up with Freddy Got Fingered or Dumb and Dumberer. And that's pretty much the territory into which Bad Boys II treads when it tries to make the audience laugh. The jokes are limited to a few inspired categories: racial slurs, cadaver mutilation, homophobic gags, and rodent copulation.

There is a charisma mismatch where the two lead actors are concerned. Despite being let down by the direction and the screenplay, Will Smith nevertheless manages to achieve a cetain level of charm, and, considering the circumstances, that's an amazing accomplishment. Martin Lawrence, on the other hand, appears to be in the grip of desperation. Despite being a hilarious stand-up comedian, Lawrence has yet to translate his outrageous personality to a screen character. In fact, it's striking how unfunny he is. Gabrielle Union is on hand to provide some T&A, and Jordi Molla froths at the mouth enough so we know he's the bad guy.

Bad Boys II represents a new low for director Bay, who, at least to this point, could be counted on to make semi-competent popcorn movies (although his one attempt at something serious, Pearl Harbor, was a laughable, lumbering failure). This film, however, needs more than salt and butter to make it palatable. Bad Boys II represents another reason to avoid multiplexes this summer, and a further argument against the serialization of movies that do not have franchise potential. Exhibits for the prosecution… 2 Fast 2 Furious, Dumb and Dumberer, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Legally Blonde 2, Bad Boys II. Sometimes, it's damn depressing to be a movie critic.

Bad Boys II (United States, 2002)

Run Time: 2:24
U.S. Release Date: 2002-07-18
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1