Bad Boys II (2003)

(In theaters, July 2003) You don’t have to be a sadistic teenage sociopath to enjoy this film, but it definitely helps. Given that the original Bad Boys was the last dying gasp of the 1984-1995 era of R-rated buddy-cop adventures, it’s fitting that this sequel feels, in many ways, like a throwback to the eighties. Equal parts “Miami Vice” and “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City”, this is first and foremost an action film, and it is never better than during the first fantastic car chase, featuring disintegrating cars dumped from a vehicle carrier on a claustrophobic Miami bridge. Memorable stuff even in a summer season packed with great car chases. (And memorable even though the basic concept has been used previously in Tokyo Raiders, much like the shantytown smash-down may very well have been suggested by a similar sequence in Police Story.) Other action sequences hold up rather well, and clearly show that even if director Michael Bay proves to be illiterate, he can move the camera and film mayhem like nobody else. Stupid action movies like this one are his forte, not pretentious pseudo-patriotic drivel like Pearl Harbor. His nervy direction is one of Bad Boys 2‘s many pleasures, along with the cool Miami locations, a wonderful Gabrielle Union, a très slick Will Smith, Joe Pantoliano’s caricatural cop chief and a few good comedy bits. Heck, even Martin Lawrence is generally tolerable, anchored as he is by Smith’s solid presence. He’s annoying, but he’s supposed to be. Had the movie concentrated on its strengths, if would have been a dynamite piece of action film. Alas, it doesn’t, and goes floundering in lengthy “hilarious” digressions (Martin’s exstasy trip is unbearable), gratuitous gross-outs and lame setups. It all adds up to a bloated two-and-a-half-hours film that contains a bit too many clunky elements to be totally successful.

(Second viewing, On DVD, March 2004) I love filmed mayhem, and few recent films have delivered so much of it as Michael Bay’s cheerfully sadistic sequel. It’s far from being a perfect film as a whole (dumb humor, choppy storytelling, uneven interest, etc.) but parts of it attain something very close to action perfection. The MacArthur Freeway chase sequence is an anthology piece; the shantytown destruction is a guilty pleasure; the opening credit sequence is a model of big-budget storytelling and the hearse pursuit is a gift for everyone’s inner sadist. Still, whatever you think of the film, there’s plenty of good things to say about the special-edition DVD, which gives an unparallelled glimpse in the making of a big-budget action film. There is little or no narration; the “video diary” approach, on the other hand, is tremendously effective. There is no audio commentary on the film, but the plethora of extras on the second disk make this absence irrelevant. I was especially impressed by the Freeway chase making-of. Spectacular!

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