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With: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Gabrielle Union, Peter Stormare, Joe Pantoliano, Michael Shannon
Written by: Ron Shelton, Jerry Stahl
Directed by: Michael Bay
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and action, pervasive language, sexuality and drug content
Running Time: 147
Date: 07/09/2003
IMDB

Bad Boys II (2003)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Going Out with the 'Boys'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Why in the name of everything holy does Bad Boys II have to be two anda half hours long? Perhaps producer Jerry Bruckheimer is trying to make a point.Perhaps he is trying to make a statement about violence even morepotent than his war movies Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down bysetting in on American soil in the present day.

Indeed, the violence in Bad Boys II resonates not with the usual thrills and applause, but with extreme nausea. Each and every death in the film is shocking, brutal and thoroughly repulsive. And it goes on much longer than we can normally tolerate. In one scene, a group of corpses stuffed with smuggled drugs fall out of a moving truck and onto the road. Bruckheimer's camera moves in for close-ups as speeding cars thump over the bodies, and at one point, decapitates them. (I laughed, but was quickly repulsed by my own reaction.)

The film is ultimately so vile that it might actually have the power to make filmmakers and audiences think again about how to portray and view violence in films. Ironically, Bad Boys II might be qualified for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. But is it some kind of intellectual essay or just another action movie? Bruckheimer's track record shows that he doesn't usually put a lot of thought into such things. He's nothing more than a slick huckster looking for the big bucks. Sometimes he gets lucky, as with the recent Pirates of the Caribbean and sometimes he's responsible for industrial waste like Kangaroo Jack.

More than likely, he's aiming this film at audiences looking to pass a few brain-dead hours during the summer. And his thought process regarding the gruesome deaths was probably nothing more than his usual "make it bigger and louder."

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence return as Mike and Marcus, two troublemaking Miami cops on the trail of a Cuban drug dealer (Spanish actor Jordi Molla), whose accent is so wild that we can't understand him half the time. Meanwhile, Marcus' sister Syd (Gabrielle Union) works undercover laundering money for the drug lords. Eventually she gets kidnapped and our heroes must fly to Cuba to rescue her. Between movies, Mike and Syd have struck up a relationship that they're reluctant to tell the hothead Marcus about. (Marcus has also been seeing a shrink about his temper.)

Every so often, the boys get into a car chase and blow a bunch of stuff up. That's when we get the endless, endless string of horrible deaths, captured by Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay's usual shaky, choppy action photography. Though in one scene, Bay swirls the camera around a circular shoot-em-up scene, possibly taking a cue from the smoother, more energetic Hong Kong action films.

To be sure, Bad Boys II does not quite stray into 2003's bad sequel hell where 2 Fast 2 Furious, Dumb and Dumberer and Legally Blonde 2 now reside. When the explosions are kept at a minimum, Smith and Lawrence actually have a fairly funny camaraderie -- never more so than in one scene in which they intimidate Marcus's daughter's 15 year-old date when he shows up at the door.

They cut each other down to size just as often. When Smith appears in one scene wearing a beautiful, expensive new suit, Bay and Bruckheimer show him in slow motion, adjusting the jacket's collar, looking cool. Lawrence reacts to him, asking, "What are you, a cop or a model?"

It begins to make sense; the screenplay -- or at least the part of it that required actual writing -- is partially credited to Ron Shelton, whose clever Hollywood Homicide earlier this summer turned the buddy cop movie on its ear with a subversive look at the genre's death rattle. Most viewers misunderstood that film by looking only at its surface and not the wicked engine that powered it.

It's entirely possible that Shelton and co-writer Jerry Stahl (Permanent Midnight) intended to do the same for Bad Boys II by turning in an ordinary buddy cop movie but making it so violent and repugnant that the buddy cop movie genre would finally keel over and expire. I can't think of a more fitting end.

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