Bad Boys II Review

Jon Robertson drew the short straw and set off to the cinema to review Bad Boys II. A masterpiece or a mangled mess? See inside and find out…

Bad Boys II is a grotesque lurching monster of a film, with great thumping gags, ferociously overblown action scenes, a body count at least as high as its running time, and a tendency toward the unsavoury and downright depraved. It’s fabulous.

The storyline concerns a Cuban drug lord exporting ecstasy into Miami, and top members of the TNT (Tactical Narcotic Team) squad, Mike (Will Smith) and Marcus (Martin Lawrence) have to stop him. Meanwhile, Marcus’ sister Sidney is an undercover DEA agent also trying to bust the same guy and is going out with Mike, behind Marcus’s back. None of this matters while you watch the film, you understand – it plays like some kind of high-octane sketch show. Plot devices that don’t serve as openers to spectacular action sequences or delirious comedy (or both) are quickly sped through with all the enthusiasm of a vasectomy. The actual scenes of dramatic conflict and personal anguish are so phenomenally trite, they make Flash liquid adverts look like powerhouse depictions of domestic turmoil.

If you hadn’t guessed, the point of this particular film is to blow things up and crack some jokes, and the two are available in abundance. The movie simply jumps, with cheerful abandon, from one mad set piece to the next, and since their implausibility and unexpectedness is where all the fun lies, I shall have to restrain myself from revealing them here (some hints: rat sex, fun with cadavers and accidental ecstasy intake). Both Smith and Lawrence deliver raucously funny performances, threatening to be upstaged only by Joe Pantoliano, their continually exasperated police chief, who spends so much time screaming at the top of his lungs, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that half his fee for the film went on throat lozenges. Maybe the real source of his anger is at the succession of increasingly hideous outfits he’s made to wear (culminating in some truly diabolical nightwear) – who knows?

The most interesting thing about Bad Boys II is how genuinely unlike most Hollywood output it is. It simply revels in its own tastelessness and disregard for human life, be it rolling a decapitated head into the camera, placing undue focus on a corpse’s oversized breasts or wringing every ounce of disgust over a particularly unpleasant death, it’s got more in common with John Waters and Herschell Gordon Lewis than your average Bruckheimer picture. Not since The Last Boy Scout has there been such a merrily gratuitous Hollywood excursion into the comic possibilities of extreme violence. I can think of no reason short of divine intervention how it came to receive a 15 certificate, and provides a solid rebuke against anyone who claims Michael Bay’s films are simply bog-standard blockbuster output.

As for Bay, it’s clear to see where his passion rests and his mark is all over this film – quite literally. His camera is practically fetishistic in the way it slithers and curls round his subjects, and manages to gives perfectly innocuous scenes a weirdly kinky edge. He’s in complete control of the action sequences; they are merciless, bewildering and deliriously chaotic, but also madly exciting – the first car chase scene where an entire lorry-load of cars are literally hurled one at a time at our heroes is enough to make one almost pass out. He also pushes his gleefully perverse sense of humour to the forefront, be it involving Mike and Marcus going undercover at a Ku Klux Klan rally to initiate a drug bust or a final chase sequence where several cars destroy an entire hillside shanty town. All this, and political sloganeering too – the film manages to be even more grotesquely patriotic than the riotous Pearl Harbor, by suggesting the entire Cuban military acts as bodyguard to one of their country’s most ruthless and psychotic drug barons and the final place of sanctuary is a US army base.

Sadly, the film falls almost totally apart in its last half-hour when an impromptu rescue mission goes to Cuba to save Marcus’ sister. To call it “contrived” and “implausible” is understating the case somewhat, and by the end of the film, the writers were clearly clutching at straws to come up with a satisfying resolution (they failed).

Up until then, it provides a fine evening’s entertainment – there’s rarely anything onscreen that isn’t worth a giggle, and the film is about as far from tedious as is possible to get. Hell will freeze over before I use the phrase “unplug your brain and enjoy”, but a film that caters solely to one’s most visceral responses is no bad thing – Stan Brakhage made a respected career out of it, after all.

Jon Robertson

Updated: Oct 12, 2003

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