Movie Review

Mania Grade: C-

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  • Reviewed Format: Wide Theatrical Release
  • Rated: R
  • Stars: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Jordi Mollà, Gabrielle Union, Peter Stormare, Theresa Randle, Joe Pantoliano
  • Writers: Ron Shelton, Jerry Stahl, story by Marianne Webberley, Cormac Webberley, Ron Shelton
  • Director: Michael Bay
  • Distributor: Columbia Pictures


Whatcha gonna do when it plays near you?

By MICHAEL TUNISON     July 18, 2003

In an era when studio marketing departments seem to be in an ongoing competition to devise the most convoluted, multi-sectioned, all-bases-covering titles for their franchise pictures (try saying LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE three times fast), there's something refreshingly straightforward about BAD BOYS II's '80s-style, Roman-numeraled simplicity. The title says: "I'm a sequel. If you liked BAD BOYS, you'll probably like me too. Sure, I'm just a variation of what you've seen before, but I had a much larger budget and will try to push it all to new extremes."

And that's pretty much what BAD BOYS II is: More of the same, only bigger and therefore that much more absurdly over-the-top. The plot's bigger, of course, eventually encompassing a Bad Boys-led invasion of a foreign country (seriously). Will Smith's muscles have certainly expanded post-ALI. The car chases and shootouts are so much bigger that they're of an entirely different order of magnitude. The running time stretches to such an epic length (147 minutes) that we start to wonder if there's been some kind of mix-up and we're actually watching BAD BOYS II and III.

The only element with any chance of holding all this together is the teasing, odd-couple chemistry between Smith and co-star Martin Lawrence, very funny guys who don't need much in the way of a script to make you smile which is handy since they don't get much of a script in this case. By contrast, consider how wretched the movie is any time it cuts away from Smith and Lawrence, as it does for a series of unbearable scenes featuring Jordi Mollà's dully stereotypical Cuban mob boss villain. The fact that Smith and Lawrence get anywhere at all with this dreck is a true triumph of charisma over material.

For the record, the plot concerns the efforts of Mollà's character to land a mother load of designer ecstasy in Miami. Of course, this quickly brings him into conflict with Miami PD narcs Mike (Smith) and Marcus (Lawrence), detectives so destruction- and shootout-prone that they make Mel Gibson's LETHAL WEAPON hero look responsible and levelheaded in comparison. And talk about coincidences! it turns out that Marcus' DEA agent little sister (the stunning Gabrielle Union from BRING IT ON) just happens to be working undercover on the same case, putting her in grave danger even as Mike is risking Marcus' wrath by putting the moves on her.

As usual,

Martin Lawrence, Gabrielle Union, and Will Smith star in BAD BOYS II.

director Michael Bay (BAD BOYS, PEARL HARBOR, ARMAGEDDON) seems to have only the most superficial interest in the story and character stuff, instead devoting most of his energies to generating his trademark brand of slick mayhem in the impressive action scenes. There's an extended vehicle chase that holds its own with the ones in MATRIX RELOADED and TERMINATOR 3 in terms of its anarchic energy (2003 may go down as the year of the CGI-enhanced mega-chases), while the last-act mansion shoot-'em-up plays like a militarized Caribbean version of the famed one in John Woo's A BETTER TOMORROW II. Bay knows how to blow stuff up we'll give him that.

In terms of overall storytelling, however, the way the film alternates Smith/Lawrence comic moments with action set pieces and plot-advancing villain scenes gets tiresome fast this is the most calculated kind of paint-by-numbers filmmaking, for all its technical sophistication, and nobody involved seems to be taking any real joy from it. Then again, it is BAD BOYS II we're talking about here. You were expecting THE FRENCH CONNECTION?

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