REVIEW: “Bad Boys II” (2003)

BB2posterIt’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.

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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

1-5-stars

15 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Bad Boys II” (2003)

  1. I started watching this a few weeks ago, must be on Netflix, and I gave up at about the chase scene you mention. It was just so over the top in several ways. Not only the action, but the colors had been pushed to the point of seeming like technicolor on steroids. The action was so impossible it didn’t do anything for me, and it seemed like not much point in watching any further.

    • Wise choice! After that action scene things get really sour. It does end with another preposterous but fun action scene but everything in the middle is painfully bad.

    • To be fair I have finished 6 Underground so I can’t really say. I do plan on starting it over and watching it all the way through, maybe even this weekend. As for BB2… yuck!

  2. If you were to ask me what would I prefer. Having a dentist drill holes into my teeth or this film? I’d choose the former. It wants to be so many things yet it lacks flow. If you watch the car chase scene on the hills/mountains in Police Story by Jackie Chan which this film rips off. You at least get a sense of what is happening, where, and who are the players involved. There’s a rhythm to it and an emphasis on patience while at least knowing when to hold the camera for key shots that last longer than 10-15 seconds.

    Bay doesn’t understand as it’s all hyper-hyper-hyper. If you were to ask me from what I’ve seen from so far of his entire film work from worst to watchable:

    1. Pearl Harbor
    2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
    3. Armageddon
    4. Bad Boys II
    5. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
    6. The Island
    7. Transformers

    and then we go to the tolerable in…

    8. Bad Boys
    9. The Rock

    I bet if someone tied him up to a chair and do the torture thing like in A Clockwork Orange where he’s forced to watch Bela Tarr’s Satantango. I’d like to believe that at the moment he demands for Tarr to cut, there is the possibility that his head will explode.

    • Great comments! Isn’t the difference between BB1 and BB2 astonishing? I mean I’m no huge fan of the first film, but it’s so much better than this thing. Bay is in full ‘Bay Mode’ by this point. Much of the attempts at humor are down right embarrassing.

      • His idea of humor sucks. Plus, some of it is misogynistic. I don’t understand why he hasn’t even been targeted by the #MeToo movement considering the awful things he does to women on and off the set.

  3. Personally, I love it and for all the reasons you and the comments here seem to hate it. Yes, it’s astoundingly excessive and self indulgent but unlike his more recent work (like say 6 Underground) it doesn’t strike me as cynical and just going through the Michael Bay motions. He’s having fun blowing stuff up and his stars are having fun driving in to them, walking away from them, and making quips around them. Their enthusiasm and Bay’s earnestness is infectious and it makes what is undeniably a mediocre story elevate to a level of ridiculous fun.

    • I know a lot of people like it. Even friends of mine see it differently than me. It’s funny, I can usually push through stuff like this. But this is one case where I actually side with the Rotten Tomatoes score (23%). That doesn’t always happen! 😁

  4. Pingback: REVIEW: “Bad Boys II” (2003) — Keith & the Movies | Los Angeles feedback film festival

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