Bad Boys II Movie Review

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It would be a hard heart indeed that couldn't find a bit of affection for a movie that starts with two black police officers going undercover at a Klan rally and ends with what appears to be an invasion of Cuba. That movie, Bad Boys II, which comes raging into summertime theaters still woozy from weak, watery sequels (Charles Angels 2 and Legally Blonde 2, among countless others), arrives a mere 8 years after the first one and is very eager to make up for lost time - a little too eager, in fact.

The first Bad Boys shouldn't have been any good at all, but ended up a huge hit that remade the careers of just about everyone involved. It was directed by a guy known only for commercials (Michael Bay), produced by a team (Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson) desperate for a hit, and starring two sitcom actors (Martin Lawrence and Will Smith) with no proven movie clout. Somehow, it all came together into a near classic, with lovingly choreographed explosions and Lawrence and Smith doing hilarious, improvised riffs over the by-the-numbers script.

This juiced-up sequel, however, seems to think it's a war movie. In case you needed to know, Lawrence and Smith play Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey, two Miami narcotics cops (Lawrence is the antsy family man while Smith plays an adrenaline junkie with a trust fund). Their prey is swarthy Cuban drug lord Johnny Tapia (Jordi Mollá), who's importing ecstasy from Amsterdam by the coffinload - it's all very complicated and not worth going into here - and is more worried about keeping his Don Johnson stubble correctly manicured than the fact that his drugs are killing people who use them. Marcus's sister, Syd (Gabrielle Union), is tossed into the mix as a DEA agent who turns out to be working an undercover sting on Tapia, which the overprotective Marcus isn't too happy about. But this is all just setup, of course, for the demolition derby to come.

In very short order we're treated not only to the Klan rally shootout but a monstrously ridiculous sequence involving tweaked-out Haitians with automatic weapons driving a big rig full of cars down the causeway. The elements are familiar - even the trick of dropping those cars off the rig in traffic to stop the chasing cops has been used before - but it's all staged with an impressively crazed imagination, handily beating other recent summer sequel car chases in The Matrix: Reloaded and 2 Fast 2 Furious. This is helped by the fact that Bay has learned to control (somewhat) the stroke-inducing, confetti-shredder editing style that made crapfests like Armageddon all but unintelligible; shots occasionally last longer than half a second, actually allowing the audience to get an idea of who's shooting who, which car is exploding/flipping over/flying through the air, and so on.

There's piles of action in the film, much of it laced with gruesome humor (items like severed fingers, dismembered criminals, and falling corpses provide many of the punch lines), but oddly enough, the story is almost more focussed on the soured relationship between Marcus and Mike. This laboriously-handled development, along with the drug dealer story and a subplot involving Mike's secret relationship with Syd, further drags down an already-bloated script (by CSI's Jerry Stahl and Hollywood Homicide's Ron Shelton, among others) that's 40 minutes too long.

While Bad Boys II has several hilarious set pieces, including one in which Marcus and Mike terrorize a teenager taking Marcus' daughter out on a date, the whole affair becomes pretty clunky and unfunny after a while. However, there's nothing wrong with the film that couldn't have been saved with a bang-up closer. Unfortunately, the climax we get has DEA agents and Miami narcotics cops putting on camouflage and stealthing into Cuba with rocket launchers and piles of C4. Are they cops or Navy SEALs? It's insanely over-the-top, and not in a good way, turning what could have been a problematic but energetic and quite enjoyable cop movie into some strange and semi-disturbing post-9/11 paramilitary fantasy.

The DVD of the film includes a second disc of extras, but the deleted scenes (as if this 2 1/2 hour action flick really needs more footage) are the most notable part of the presentation.

Whatcha gonna do this time?

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Bad Boys II Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, 2003

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