Bad Boys 2 Review
Warning - Contains teensy weensy spoilers, but nothing too serious and nothing that will truly affect your 'enjoyment' of the film. This review might well express upsetting and misguided sentiments, not endorsed by anyone other than the reviewer, so if you're feeling brave/foolhardy, hold tight and here we go...
Let's be clear about this, before we begin. Bad Boys 2 falls very neatly into the category of bloated blockbuster action flick. It's bloated because it is stuffed solid with the accumulated cultural flotsam and jetsam that has made up American popular culture for the last two decades or so; MTV, Rock Videos, burgers, body fascism, franchises and, most importantly of all, the artistic representation of violence. It is, for all intents and purposes, a Mr Creosote of a film. Mr Creosote, you might recall, is the obscenely fat star of one of Monty Python's more graphic sketches, who explodes and showers a restaurant with vomit and excreta after eating 'just one wafer thin mint'. Michael Bay has provided the wafer thin mint and much, much more. All the viewer can do is watch in horror as this wonderful film unfolds.
Basically, it's your standard cops and robbers action film. It looks like a rock video, sounds like a rock video and has about as much soul as a rock video. Martin Lawrence and Will Smith play the standard cops (Marcus and Mike) who are willing to bend the rules and do everything to bring the bad guys to justice. Of course, it gets personal and, well, you can guess the rest. If you can't, then you are sent, in disgrace, to watch Lethal Weapon, Die Hard or a Dirty Harry sequel first. These things really haven't changed at all since the days of the wonderful Freebie and the Bean.
On a narrative level, the film is wanting on several levels. It would be pointless to go into them here but poor plotting, cardboard acting and the usual suspects of blockbuster action cinema are all present and accounted for. If you sniff and discard the movie as multiplex fodder, you would be right to do so, in one sense but, on another level, you would be very, very wrong. You see, Bad Boys 2 is no less than a porn movie and as criticism of pornography on a narrative level is redundant, so it is here. You will never hear someone say, "That porn DVD you lent me was rubbish, the plot was predictable, the acting atrocious and the director couldn't direct traffic. Please, never lend me another." Applying standard modes of criticism to a film like Bad Boys 2 is nonsense; it is a film that deals strictly with violence on a pornographic level. As pornographic sex is explicit, mechanical and cold, so is the violence here. It does, however, do it's job and you will indeed metaphorically ejaculate at the carnage caused to cars, people, boats, buildings and pretty much everything else you can think of.
Now, your tastes might not extend to pornography of any description and that, gentle reader, is fine and dandy. It's your choice, but those brave/jaded enough to wade in and embrace the filthy tide will find much to enjoy here but, and this cannot be stressed enough, it has to be seen and enjoyed on it's own terms; bring none of your cultured cinema going prejudices to this film. It will laugh at them and, rightly, spit them right back at you and you will never feel clean again. Go and see Kill Bill vol 1 instead, now that is a grandfather's turd of a film and will pander to your prejudices on every level and you will go home happy.
The thing that raises Bad Boys 2 head and shoulders above other films is it's subversive quality. Most films, of any description, place the viewer in a fairly obvious receptive state. You are told in cinematic language at every point, how you are supposed to feel. It's a safety mat, a barrier between the viewer and evocation of thought. Bad Boys 2 willingly does away with this barrier and forces a reaction. Consider the infamous car chase involving the mortuary van. A few minutes ago, you cheered at the destruction of that ultimate symbol of fordist consumerism, the car, as brand new models were destroyed simply for the sake of it by being launched from the back of a transporter. Now, the film is repeating this scene but with human corpses instead of cars and there is no clear reaction you are able to give to this. Do you laugh? Do you cheer? Are you disgusted? Probably a combination of all three, and Bad Boys 2 has done this to you deliberately and it is not a pleasant position to be in. Safety mat removed, you are forced to deal with this in whichever way you can. It's a stroke of genius, and deserves to be discussed by academics but probably won't be. It's far too challenging for the likes of them to discuss Michael Bay in terms of autuerism, but give it another ten years or so and the position will be quite different. Just wait and see.
Of course, from the sound of this, it sounds as though Bad Boys 2 might just be the perfect film but, sadly and as usual in a less than perfect world this is not the case. It fails on several levels; most notably in it's depiction of the villain. We know that Americans do not find terrorism amusing anymore, as they did in films such as True Lies et al, but please, Ecstasy smugglers? The filmmakers resort to showing someone OD in a club to force the message home. The bad guy's sneering exclamation of "Ecstasy, it really fuck's em up" is crying out to be sampled and used in a dance track. It's an insult to the intelligence and to make matters worse, the actual villain of the piece is about as charismatic as a sock. No, actually, a sock, as long as it was a sock puppet, would have more charisma than Peter Stormare’s over the top, yet lousy performance. For an action film to work, the villain and threat must be credible, evil and amusing and this film fails to deliver on any level. Returning to the politics of the film, briefly, it's interesting the ways in which the film deals with the events of September 11th and it's aftermath. Being much more efficient at tracking and capturing drug smugglers is seen as an added bonus of security clampdowns and it's difficult not to have serious misgivings about the films representation of Guantanamo Bay as a signifier for safety and security, as it presented in the final reel.
Then, there's the small matter of the crowd pleasing comedy scenes but the only crowds these would please are crowds that are brain dead and have never seen anything truly funny before. There's no denying that Lawrence and Smith have charisma in abundance, and some of the scenes do work fairly well such as the scene in the audio/video shop but, on the whole, they fall very flat indeed and Bay often resorts to visual comedy; a medium in which he is not in the least suited. You will be embarrassed for him at the site of a badly animated rat having missionary position sex. Please, enough, enough of this nonsense.
The scene in the audio/video store is interesting on another level. The impression is given, through Smith and Lawrence’s' unwitting video recording and transmission of themselves, that they are a couple discussing their relationship. Now, not since The Wild Bunch has a homo-erotic sub-text forced it's way onto an audience with so much force. Much mileage is gained from jokes surrounding Lawrence’s anus. It would be fair to say that the film is positively obsessed with his anus and Smith even penetrates it with a bullet in the opening scene. Much like The Wild Bunch, the repressed sexuality that the masculine characters are loaded with translates itself through the Phallic symbol of the bullet and the violence that explodes across the scene is a result of this repressed sexual energy. Smith also pursues a relationship with Lawrence’s sister. It is clear that he really wants to be with Lawrence, and his pursuit of his sister represents a way to Lawrence that his damaged sexual self is able to deal with. There's even a sequence in which they vow to be with each other until death, which can only be read as a marriage scene. Maybe in the inevitable Bad Boys 3, they will give up the pretence and just bugger each other senseless in the final reel. Let's hope so.
Absolutely gorgeous to look at. Bay is a nothing less than a perfectionist when it comes to presentation and every frame drips with sheen and polish and it's lucky there's a transfer that does it justice. In a film such as this, that uses colour and shadow to paint pictures and create moods, a bad transfer will ruin the cinematic effect. Here, every shade and tint is presented perfectly, and it looks better than it did on the big screen. Skin tone is perfect and the primary colours show not the slightest hint of bleed.
Now this is a veritable festival of noise. It's reference level stuff and the perfect disc to show off your sound system. Bullets fly around the room, cars fly overhead and your sub will never forgive you for the sheer amount of bottom-end you're about to push through it. Rear speakers are never silent. Dialogue is clear, and the steering is excellent.
On disc one, you get some trailers. Just one for Bad Boys 2 and then you get extra little ones for SWAT, National Security, The Returner, Hollywood Homicide, The Medallion and something called Ride Or Die which looks like a serious contender for the worst film ever made, it's hilarious. All trailers are subtitled, but just in Dutch for some reason, and give the whole plots of the films away.
Note All features are subtitled in English HOH, Italian and Dutch.
First up, Deleted Scenes and you get seven in total. Amamorphic and 2.0 Stereo.
Group Therapy 1.07
A comedy flashback scene that gives a brief glimpse of Lawrences' group therapy sessions. Not funny.
Mike and Mara 1.04
Will Smith nearly has sex with someone in a hospital closet. Excreble.
Arriving at the Haitians House .34
Short, almost silent scene that's a great example of the chemistry between the two leads.
First Scene at Phat's 1.06
Pointless scene at the audio/video store.
Talking About Mama's House .50
Your unconvincing villain gets a comedy scene. Pathetic, really pathetic.
Hit On Dog .40
Another comedy villain scene.
Fake Funeral 2.00
Just when you give up on anything substantial, or interesting, on this bit, you get a wonderful, tasteless scene in which Smith and Lawrence raid a real funeral believing there to be drugs hidden in the coffin. Laugh out loud funny.
A ten minute short that looks at, well, you guessed it, the stunts. Ten Minutes long and fully subtitled.
This one looks at the visual effects used in the film, and is noteble for it's willingness to spoil the film by pointing out the digital effects. More interesting than most its ilk. Twenty minutes long and fully subtitled. Full Screen.
Just the one, which seems a bit mean.
"La-La-La" by Jay Z 3.44
Plenty of bling and scary looking men in hoodies. Rather a poor example of modern music, but this depends entirely on your own tastes. The building from the cover of Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti seems to make an appearance, which is a highlight in a song that, basically, celebrates designer labels, women that seem to be made entirely of plastic and very little else.
These are better, and one of the highlights of the bonus disc. You get six in total - Macarthur Causeway,Ice Van Chase, Monorail Chase, 5 Man Ratchet, Tapia's Mansion and Shanty Town.
They all follow the same format, so we'll just take a look at one in detail -
First, you get the chance to watch the sequence in question from the movie itself to show how it looks on the screen. Then, there's some On The Set footage, which is basically b-roll footage with minimal narration. Now, this could be very dull indeed, but given the explosive nature of the scenes in question, all the best action sequences from the movie, it becomes very interesting indeed at times. Next, comes the Storyboard sequences which often number hundreds of pages, but these are broken down into their respective elements so you don't have to flip through pages in order to see the sequence you want. Very thoughtful. Finally, you get the Script Extract from the sequence in question. It's surprising how many words some of these sequences generate. You'd never guess it from watching the film.
As stated, all the sections follow this format, with little difference in the timing or material. It's an interesting little feature and a must for anyone interested in how an action film of this nature is made.
Now, this is the cream of the disc, right here. Basically, you get a little film school all in itself. The diaries begin with the genesis of the film, from the original Bad Boys and take you through pre-production and shooting. Each segment is dated and consists of talking head type interviews with the cast and filmmakers along with b-roll footage and explanations of the special effects. Excellent viewing and you'll learn a lot about the soulless vacuum that is modern Hollywood. There are nineteen in total, fully subtitled and each one with a running time of around three to five minutes each. Full screen. Annoyingly, there's no option to watch the segments as a whole, so much menu flicking is required. It's worth it, though, as there's lots of stuff on here that's of interest to anyone interested in how a blockbuster is put together.
It's worth pointing out that most of the featurettes on here are, actually, worth watching. There is much of substance to them and they never degenerate into 'talking head' back slapping but instead are totally focused on the film itself, which is a small miracle. If you've sat through hundreds of these things before, you'll know how tedious they can be and it's to the credit of all concerned that this is not the case here.
So, then, Bad Boys 2; a film that deals with violence on a pornographic level and has a strong homosexual sub-text to boot. Too wonderful for words and well worth a look even if it does fall flat on it's face on other levels. Reference level picture quality and sound and you're spoiled rotten even if you ignore the worthwhile and interesting set of extra features that are included.