After the grandiose efforts of Armageddon and Pearl Harbor, director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer reunite with stars Martin Lawrence and Will Smith for a sequel to the 1995 buddy cop movie
Eight years on from the original, with Will Smith now an Oscar-nominated established megastar and Michael Bay one of Hollywood's most commercially successful directors, things have changed. Dismissing the entertaining original's relatively modest production values, Bad Boys II is all about excess. More is more. And too much is not enough.
With the budget pumped up to $130 million, the running time an engorged two and a half hours, Bay tries to batter his audience into submission. Half the cars in Miami are detonated, the gore factor is upped to horror movie levels and the camera trained directly under scantily clad dancers - hey - just because he can. No doubt egged on by his producer Jerry Bruckheimer, another doyen of understated subtlety, Bay is trying to live up to the wanton loose cannon antics of his titular characters. "Bad boys for life" isn't simply a catchphrase for Smith's Detective Mike Lowrey and Lawrence's Detective Marcus Burnett, it's a mission statement for the film itself.
Small wonder that the provisional storyline - a ruthless Latino drug lord (Mollá) pursued not just by our dyspeptic duo, but also by Lawrence's undercover DEA sister, Syd (Union), who's conveniently having a covert relationship with Mike - all but disappears en route to the next bout of macho posturing.
Bay's a fascinating anomaly. He's a director who can apparently marshal a complex, multi-camera action set-piece, explode things with unrivalled panache and still display almost no sense of pacing and coherence. Because all the emphasis is on blowing stuff up, in terms of both scale and pyrotechnics, small matters like human drama disappear, meaning there's nothing really at stake in a Bay movie aside from the careers of the effects crew and stuntmen. Surely this makes him a poor action director?
If Bad Boys II were merely an exercise in gratuitous carnage, one could simply put in the earplugs and wait till it stopped haranguing you. After all, the filmmakers would surely counter, it's only entertainment. We're simply trying to deliver more whizz for your bang, more yucks for your buck and various other 'hey, lighten up'-style excuses.
What this overlooks is the sheer mean-spirited, sexist, homophobic arrogance on constant display. Not to mention the racism - quite a feat for a film showcasing two black leading men and their loved ones. Every other character exists merely to be a punchline to whatever sneer, insult or bullet our boys can deliver. The climactic destruction of a Cuban shantytown is played for inconsequential laughs, no thought given to the idea that people might actually live there. But then real people, real emotions other than 'woah, cool!' aren't part of the film's strategy. It's taken for granted that this is all huge fun. Trouble is, Bay and co can't stop laughing, whereas many in the audience won't have started in the first place.
Peddling such dross is good for, if nothing else, a test of a star's charisma. Somehow the seemingly Teflon-coated Smith's natural charm enables him to wallow in the same filth as everyone else without it sticking. Which is more than can be said for perpetual comedy vacuum Lawrence. Presumably his top billing is an in-joke.
You don't need to be a film snob to find Bad Boys II depressing in almost every way. Merely someone who prefers to watch films that contain some semblance of recognisable humanity, a degree of humility and don't leave you staggering out of the cinema with a headache. Its impeccable technical credits only make matters worse.
Epitomising everything that's wrong with modern Hollywood, Bad Boys II isn't simply bad, it's one of the worst films of the year.