AGAINST THE GRAIN: Bad Boys II (2003)

Cal gets on the defensive to stick up for Michael Bay’s hilariously over-caffeinated action sequel.  

Bad Boys II is the perfect Michael Bay movie. It’s overblown, self-indulgent, offensive, puerile, overlong, and ridiculous, yet it’s almost proud to wear the aforementioned descriptors. There’s a lot of hate for this movie, and while that’s an understandable viewpoint, Bad Boys II is a total gas for my money, a mammoth 150-minute action blockbuster extravaganza that genuinely delivers. Fun is fun, and I cannot deny that I was joyed by nearly every minute of this bona fide guilty pleasure, which is both exhilarating and downright hilarious. Bad Boys II is truly unique in the annals of action cinema, and with its R-rating in place allowing for excessive blood-letting, relentless profanity and crude bantering (not to mention boobs… because Michael Bay), all backed by a monster budget, it’s not likely that we will ever see anything comparable again.

A pair of Miami police officers, Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), are partners working for the Tactical Narcotics Team, overseen by Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano). Investigating the flow of ecstasy into the United States, Mike and Marcus are led to powerful Cuban drug lord Johnny Tapia (Jordi Mollà), who has been arrested in the past but never convicted. The DEA are interested in Tapia as well, with Marcus’ younger sister Syd (Gabrielle Union) working undercover to bring him down. And, unbeknownst to Marcus, Syd and Mike have started a secretive relationship.

When people speak in negative generalisations about Hollywood, calling blockbusters big and dumb, Bad Boys II is precisely the kind of production they are referring to. Aside from the obvious overblown Hollywood theatrics throughout, the tactics of the DEA and Miami PD are thoroughly ridiculous here. Sure, firearms handling is pretty accurate owing to on-set advisors and even real policemen being used as extras, but such high-risk assaults, shootouts and car chases would never happen in real-life. Also, apparently Miami cops are extraordinarily well-paid since they live in luxurious mansions and drive sports cars. That’s just scratching the surface of the absurdity to unearth here, but suffice it to say, nobody should ever come to Bad Boys II expecting anything remotely believable. All these flaws are entirely by design – it’s not as if Bay set out to make a true-to-life cop drama.

Bay’s films are often marred by sickening shaky-cam photography which transforms every set-piece into a disjointed, headache-inducing mess, but while the camerawork here is frenetic, it’s easy to follow the mayhem, which is both frequent and enjoyable. With an adult rating in place here, no awkward or restrictive editing is employed – we are permitted to take in the bloodshed in all its violent glory. Bay was working with a hefty $130 million budget, thus production values are gorgeous and the photography is frequently eye-catching. Bay is a notoriously difficult director to work for since he’s so demanding, but his dedication shows up on-screen, with a sense of authority pervading the feature, and with the action sequences benefitting from accomplished cinematic craftsmanship. Fluid and fun, any action fan should enjoy the action on display here. And underscoring the shootouts and explosions is a memorable score courtesy of Trevor Rabin.

Smith and Lawrence are perhaps the key reason why the Bad Boys movies work as well as they do. Both men come from comedic backgrounds, and they look believable as men of action. Not to mention, they share an astonishingly easy-going chemistry and there’s a palpable camaraderie between them; their bantering is a frequent source of amusement. The most notable member of the supporting cast is Pantoliano, a perfect choice for Captain Howard. When Smith, Lawrence and Pantoliano feature in a scene together, it’s guaranteed to be comedy gold.

Bad Boys II is a motion picture which really highlights the subjective nature of movie criticism, and the polarising nature of films in general. Respected critics trashed this movie to death, with the jaded James Berardinelli even going to far as to state that anyone who enjoys Bad Boys II should seek professional help – such pomposity! For my money, this is an insanely fun movie, the kind of big-budget actioner that can be enjoyed with beer and pizza. Bay’s best movie will always be the ’90s action masterpiece known as The Rock, but Bad Boys II is right up there with the director’s superior filmic endeavours, far better than all of the Transformers abominations or the agonising Pain & Gain. It’s difficult to respect Bay, but when he gets it right, dear lord he gets it right.

Fancy a caption challenge?

Fancy a caption challenge?

Useless Trivia

 (Via IMDb)
  • When Dennis Greene, who played Reggie, showed up for shooting, he was told by Martin Lawrence’s bouncer that he mustn’t look into Lawrence’s eyes or talk to him, and Lawrence himself was subsequently nasty to him. It was all a ploy arranged by Michael Bay who wanted the boy to be genuinely scared of Lawrence. Greene also wasn’t told about the gun that he would be threatened with.
  • Scenes from the movie were filmed at the “Bird” house in Delray Beach, Florida. The mansion stood nearly completed and vacant for years before it was purchased. The new owner advertised in Variety for a movie company to use the mansion in a movie and blow it up. By the end of filming, only the swimming pool was left.
  • Bay comments on the DVD that they got through the whole car chase without damaging the Ferrari (in spite of what we saw on film for laughs). He complains that Lawrence later struck a concrete barrier with the passenger door.
  • In a 2013 conversation with film critic David Denby at the Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles, screenwriter Ron Shelton confessed that when asked by Jerry Bruckheimer to work on the script, he had not seen Bad Boys and quickly fast forwarded through a Blockbuster rental of the film before his interview. He also stated that, to that day, he has never seen Bad Boys II.

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