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Bad Boys II Print E-mail
Friday, 18 July 2003
Image“Bad Boys II” is mostly agreeable section by section, and it has some very impressive stunt sequences, courtesy of director Michael Bay and his action team. However, writers Ron Shelton and Jerrry Stahl, working from a story by Marianne Webberly & Cormac Webberly and Shelton, wind up presenting us with too many riffs, connected by too little through-line. The disjointed feeling of the film is at least partly Bay’s responsibility -- he’s so intent on each effect for its own sake that he doesn’t seem to be interested in getting the setpieces to link up in a way that creates momentum. If “Bad Boys II” were simply the diverting buddy-cop movie it is at its core, this wouldn’t be a particular flaw, but at two-and-a-half hours long, the lack of narrative drive becomes a real problem.

Reprising their roles from the 1995 original, William Smith and Martin Lawrence play, respectively, Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, lifelong best friends and police partners working together in the Miami P.D. drug squad. When a huge bust goes wrong, Mike accidentally shoots Marcus in the rear (albeit in the process of saving his life) and the department is breathing down their necks for resolution of the case. The culprit is Johnny Tapia (Jordi Molla), a Cuban super-criminal whose international trafficking in millions of dollars worth of product and bloody business practices have attracted the attention of the DEA. That branch of law enforcement has sent an undercover agent from New York to infiltrate Tapia’s team. Said agent happens to be Marcus’ sister Syd (Gabrielle Union), who doesn’t want her brother and his pal to horn in on her case. Meanwhile, Mike is afraid of how Marcus will react if he learns of the fling between Mike and Syd. Marcus, suffering from stress, is working with New Age relaxation techniques to prevent him from going ballistic, but his belief that Mike is largely responsible for all of life’s tensions is causing Marcus to contemplate dissolving their working relationship.

There’s a lot more, but none of it feels like it matters much. “Bad Boys II” in many ways resembles countless other unmemorable but entertaining squabbling male-bonding crime-fighting flicks. What it has that most of the others don’t is a freeway full of money to use in the budget, an enormous running time and surprisingly little notion of what to do with either, so that the overall effect is ultimately less expansive than exhausting. Bay and Co. create a novel car chase sequence, in which our heroes must dodge vehicles literally being dropped in their high-speed path by a hijacked big rig, but even this is slightly undercut by editing where (either due to actual re-used footage or an unfortunate similarity in both object and stunt) it appears that we see the same car fall off the truck and barrel past our guys at two separate times.
Smith is effortlessly charming and Lawrence is good at playing a put-upon man (though we never understand just why his Marcus is so tense, so his emotional state never really captures our imagination). Molla is colorful and clearly having a fine time as the baddie, and Peter Stormare is an excellent matc for him as a Russian mobster. Union is sexy and confident, and Joe Pantoliano displays expert comedic timing as Mike and Marcus’ exasperated commanding officer.

Sound effects and the sound mix are top of the line, with pulsing music mingling with the ambient sounds of drug-making apparatus in the opening sequence drawing us in and providing a rhythmic sense of urgency. There’s a good, insistent helicopter throb in the next big setpiece and some excellent directional gunshots (although the visual blocking here is a bit confusing). There’s a bravura special effects shot that follows the trajectory of a bullet as it tears through two different people at different angles, and of course the car crashes are a symphony of tearing metal, coming at us from 360 degrees.

There’s a point when the conflict expands to include more participants on both sides and the geographical scale of the story widens. Unfortunately, these developments are so unearned that instead of being excited by the possibilities, you may well think, “Uh-oh, there’s going to be another half-hour of this,” and you’d be right. There’s nothing wrong with the parts of “Bad Boys II” -- some of it is quite good -- but they don’t add up to a dynamic whole that holds your attention the entire time it’s onscreen.

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