It’s amazing to see the difference between the Michael Bay of 1995’s “Bad Boys” and the Michael Bay of its sequel “Bad Boys II”. In the eight years between films the ever so slight restraint that made his directorial debut watchable had evaporated, replaced by the loud, bombastic, hyper-stylized filmmaking that Bay is still associated with today (look no further than his recent Netflix mindnumber “6 Underground”).
After the success of the first film Bay saw his budget jump from $19 million all the way to $130 million. That meant more action, bigger set pieces and a much higher body count. Unfortunately along with that came this ridiculous desire to amp up everything else as well resulting in a brain-deadening malaise bookended by two massive but admittedly impressive action sequences.
What passes for a story goes something like this. Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) are still Miami narcotics officers known best for the trail of mayhem they leave behind with every case. Marcus’ sister Syd (Gabrielle Union) gets tangled up with a Cuban drug kingpin named Johnny Tapia (Jordi Molla) while covertly working undercover for the DEA. Tapia is using a Russian gang to distribute souped-up Ecstasy￼ onto the streets of Miami which brings Marcus and Mike into the mix.
Some meaningless side arcs prop up the story including Mike and Syd’s secret romance and Marcus second guessing his partnership with Mike. None of it really matters much. It’s all just means of moving towards the next big action scene or obnoxious comedy sketch. And there are a ton of obnoxious attempts at comedy. Aside from the incessant yelling between Lawrence and Smith, Bay along with co-writers Ron Shelton and Jerry Stahl are at times offensively tone deaf with their ideas of ‘humor’.
Take where a 15-year-old boy comes to Marcus’ house to pick up his daughter for a first date. What follows is a nasty scene where Marcus and Mike intimidate the kid through demeaning questions and profane threats. At one point a gun is even pointed at the kid amid a slew of n-words and other obscenities. It goes on and on and is just a sample of the kind of stuff the filmmakers want us to laugh at. Other things they think are funny: ogling the bare breasts of a dead “bimbo“, animal sex between two rats. You get the idea.
It’s not that I can’t handle irreverent humor. But when it’s this lowbrow and unfunny. And it doesn’t help that Bay had reached the point in his career where he doesn’t know when to let off the accelerator. So we just get more and more of it. It’s as if he was giving viewers a sneak peak at how he would be handling the Transformers franchise a few years down the road.
It’s really a shame because there are a couple of times when Bay’s excesses are pretty fun to watch. Take a wild early chase scene that takes a break to have a shootout before hopping onto a busy Miami freeway. It’s ten solid minutes of crazy, over-the-top action where Bay throws everything at the screen: an SUV, muscle cars, an 18-wheeler, a Ferrari, even a boat. It captures his knack for presenting stylish, high-energy action. And take another shootout featuring a clever revolving tracking shot. One of several interesting visual flourishes Bay uses.
The rest hinges on ￼Lawrence and Smith’s chemistry which is still there. But much like the movie itself, even their performances feel more showy and self-absorbed. So all we have are a couple of fun, kinetic action sequences with two hours-plus of tasteless, grating indulgence crammed in between. “Bad Boys II” is brash, tawdry and completely full of itself. It makes for a noticeable step down from a movie that wasn’t all that great to begin with.￼
VERDICT – 1.5 STARS