Benjamin has been reviewing films for sixteen years and has seen more action movies than he should probably admit to!
What's the big deal?
Bad Boys II is an action comedy film released in 2003 and is the sequel to the 1995 film Bad Boys. Directed once again by Michael Bay, the film reunites stars Martin Lawrence and Will Smith as Miami police officers who are this time attempting to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the city. The film also stars Gabrielle Union, Peter Stormare, Jordi Mollà, Theresa Randle and Joe Pantoliano. While the first film became a cult success with audiences (although not with critics), this sequel was heavily criticised for its formulaic narrative, excessive and noisy action sequences and uncomfortable racial undertones. The film would go on to make more than $273 million worldwide and would be followed by a third film in the series - Bad Boys For Life - in 2020.
What's it about?
Miami PD detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett are still working their beat alongside their colleagues in Narcotics, attempting to stem the flow of illegal drugs into the city. Linking an ecstasy shipment to a local arm of the KKK, Mike & Marcus lead a raid on a clan meeting which goes badly wrong. After a shootout between officers and clansmen which involves Marcus getting accidentally shot in the buttocks, it turns out that the apprehended suspects were merely buyers and not the distributors. Marcus begins questioning whether he wants to continue working with Mike, who is secretly dating Marcus' sister Syd behind his back.
However, Syd has secrets of her own - she is working undercover for the DEA and is tracing the ecstasy shipments by working for Russian gangsters laundering money. It turns out that local Cuban crime lord Johnny Tapia is behind the drug shipments and Syd's cover is almost blown after Mike and Marcus thwart an attempted kidnap. After causing considerable collateral damage after a car chase, their increasingly stressed boss Captain Conrad Howard demands that Mike and Marcus get to the bottom of the ecstasy shipments and shut it down for good.
Det. Lt. Marcus Burnett
Det. Lt. Mike Lowrey
Hector Juan Carlos "Johnny" Tapia
Special Agent Sydney "Syd" Burnett
Captain Conrad Howard
Ron Shelton & Jerry Stahl*
Release Date (UK)
3rd October, 2003
Action, Comedy, Crime
What's to like?
The first Bad Boys, while not exactly a classic, developed a cult following with its intoxicating blend of heavily stylised action (it was director Bay's first film) and a decent comic pairing in Smith and Lawrence. Surprise, surprise - this film has more of the same. Bad Boys II has a veritable buffet of action sequences that defy any sense of logic, coupled with near-constant explosions and noisy gun fights. At times, it feels more like a war movie except the film's style and comedy prevents the atmosphere from getting too dramatic. In between, Smith and Lawrence are still a great double-act that spar off each other well although the comedy isn't exactly high-brow.
The story doesn't make a great deal of sense, certainly not to sustain a film that runs as long as this does, but it rips through every action movie cliche as though contractually obliged. Pantoliano shines as the overly angry boss (and isn't given enough screen time) while Union also does well - however, her role should have been as an equal to her two male co-stars instead of being a romantic damsel in distress. But generally speaking, this is an adequate action film that could not be more hackneyed and generic if it tried. It even has a pointless Dan Marino cameo because... well, Miami.
- The film posters credit producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, despite Simpson having died of heart failure in 1996 at the age of 52. According to IMDb, Bruckheimer is the film's sole producer. Simpson and Bruckheimer did produce the original Bad Boys back in 1995.
- Two different Ferraris were used during filming, one of which belonged to Bay himself which was used for the more daring stunt work. Despite the cars not being damaged during the chase shoot, Lawrence did bash the door against a concrete barrier in a subsequent scene.
- Some scenes in the film were shot at a mansion in Delray Beach, Florida that was nearly completed and had stood vacant for years before the new owner bought it. They then advertised the mansion to movie studios to use the plot in filming, providing the building was blown up. After Bad Boys II had finished, only the swimming pool remained intact.
- The film also features a uncredited cameo by a young Megan Fox in her big screen debut. She plays a kid in a stars-and-stripes bikini playing under a waterfall.
What's not to like?
However generic the film may feel, Bad Boys II does leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth. For starters, it goes on way too long for a film of this type - action films should barely last 100 minutes or so but this trundles on like The Lord Of The Rings and is just so unnecessary. Each action sequence gets more ridiculous as the film goes on from the cars getting dumped onto the freeway (an idea Bay would repeat a few years later in his misfiring sci-fi flick The Island) to literally driving down a hill full of tin shack slums in a Hummer. It feels like destruction for the sheer sake of it, as if blowing stuff up is all we wanted to see. I know Bay has a reputation for loving explosions but this is one of the most over-the-top films of his career alongside the equally vapid Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen.
The amount of comic banter between Smith and Lawrence feels reduced somehow, possibly lost in a tide of explosions and car chases. The story is as dumb as they come but still manages to offend with both characters and sequences that feel racist. While Mollà does what he can with the underwritten and stereotypical role as a Cuban drug lord (is there any other kind after Scarface?), the uncomfortable grilling of poor Reggie at the front door doesn't really translate into good cinema. The whole film feels like a one-man power trip with Bay literally blowing up whatever he feels like and reducing his heavyweight comic stars into everyday action heroes. It feels like watching the mind of a pyromaniac coming around from powerful anaesthetic. It has all the realism and believability of a Looney Tunes cartoon and if the action doesn't stir or excite you then what exactly is the point? You may as well have placed the estimated $130 million budget into a brazier and set it on fire.
Should I watch it?
Even the most ardent of action fans will watch this chaos with a slack jaw and start to wonder if they could have spent their time better. Bad Boys II is long, loud and not worth the effort - it doesn't bring anything new to the screen and wastes the potential of its stars. It has its moments but these are few and far between - stick with the original or check out the long-delayed third film which has achieved the best reviews of the series so far.
Great For: action fans with short-term memory issues, Michael Bay's throbbing erection
Not So Great For: critics, grown-ups, Miami residents fed up of their hometown's constant association with drugs
What else should I watch?
Aside from the other two films in the series so far? The obvious place to start is another film series that served as a spiritual predecessor to Bad Boys - Beverly Hills Cop. Like Bad Boys, it features a blistering comic turn from Eddie Murphy in the form of his life playing a cop in sunnier climes than he's used to and causing no end of carnage as he goes. The magic is strong enough with the second film to just about justify watching it but Beverly Hills Cop III is a disaster and should be avoided at all costs. Or how about another buddy-cop franchise from the Eighties in the slightly edgier form of Lethal Weapon? I always enjoyed the pairing of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover and while the films are just as formulaic, they are still eminently watchable today.
As bad as Michael Bay's reputation in Hollywood is, Martin Lawrence possibly suffers a worse one. After making his big screen debut in Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing, his career has floundered in countless buddy-cop films like Blue Streak or unfunny comedies like the wretched Big Momma's House. By contrast, Will Smith has been one of Hollywood's most bankable stars for years after huge success with Independence Day, Men In Black, Ali and The Pursuit Of Happyness. His most recent efforts have included voice work in animated comedy Spies In Disguise and another action film alongside his younger self in Ang Lee's Gemini Man.
© 2020 Benjamin Cox