Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 25, 2004)
Director Michael Bay revisits his cinematic origins with 2003’s Bad Boys II. Actually, the flick represents a couple of firsts for Bay. 1995’s Bad Boys was his first stint as a film director, and the 2003 iteration stands as his first attempt at a sequel. For years, it looked like Boys II wouldn’t happen just because its lead actors became such big stars that a reunion would become financially impractical. That also apparently slowed the progress of Men In Black II, but Columbia-Tristar ultimately worked out the deals for both.
MIIB was a disappointment to me. I liked the first but thought the sequel was little more than a pale imitation of it. On the other hand, I never much cared for the original Bad Boys. I think Bay does what he does very well, but his first flick remains his least interesting. Did he improve on that model with the sequel? Read on and see!
The film opens with a shipment of ecstasy from Amsterdam to Miami. We meet drug lord Johnny Tapia (Jordi Molla), the head of this operation. We also see how the Miami police’s “TNT” Special Narcotics Team tries to halt the shipment. They use two undercover officers to infiltrate the operation and send them the sign to move in and deal with the drugs.
No prizes if you guess the identities of the officers. Yup, we find Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) from the first film as the infiltrate a Ku Klux Klan rally and send the signal for the team to head in, but the transmitters don’t work. Much violence and mayhem ensues, but with little payoff as the officers discover they hit the wrong target.
We then encounter more of the folks involved in the drug side of things via club owner Alexei (Peter Stormare) who works with Johnny. The film then introduces Syd (Gabrielle Union), Marcus’ sister who’s in town from New York. We learn that she and Mike hooked up when he recently visited the Big Apple, but neither has spilled the beans to Marcus yet. In addition, a stressed-out Marcus plans to transfer out of the narcotics department and cease his role as Mike’s partner, but he has yet to inform Lowrey of that.
Matters complicate even more when Mike’s informant Icepick (Treva Etienne) lets him know where to go for the dope. When they get there, they find out that Syd’s working undercover and is involved with Alexei’s side of things as a money launderer. Additional mayhem occurs as Johnny continues to try to bring in the drugs and the cops attempt to deal with this.
At least I could chalk up the cheesiness and crudeness of the first Bad Boys to directorial inexperience. With three films between flicks, Bay should know better and should be able to produce something that looks like he’s developed additional skills since 1995.
Unfortunately, Boys II comes across like the same old, same old. I figured I was in for a bad time when within the movie’s first ten minutes we’d heard a character refer to some women as “fucking bitches” and we’d encountered dopey caricatures via the Klan members. These all existed for little reason than to create very easy comedic opportunities that seemed both predictable and lame.
Matters didn’t improve from there. Part of the problem stemmed from the flick’s radically excessive running time. The original flick seemed a little too long at 118 minutes, but Boys II filled almost an extra half an hour! That length seemed acceptable for something more epic like Armageddon; heck, that film did deal with the end of the world. Boys II just follows some criminal enterprises related to drugs – we needed two and a half hours of that?
Bay padded the film with too many pointless action sequences and sad attempts at character development between the leads. I didn’t think the chemistry between Smith and Lawrence seemed great in 1995, and it didn’t improve over the years. It didn’t help that they chose to turn the charming, suave Lowrey of the first flick into an angry renegade here who seemed determined to shoot first, second and third and never ask questions.
Marcus remained something of a pathetic sad sack, and the movie attempted to derive humor from his stressful state. A theme about therapy ran through the film and provided many lame stabs at comedy. Marcus and some others incessantly spouted “whoosah!” as their mantra. It wasn’t funny the first time, and it didn’t get better with additional repetitions.
It didn’t help that Boys II suffered from a tremendously ordinary plot. Cops try to stop a drug shipment and they end up involved against an evil drug lord – that’s not exactly creative or original. Granted, stories don’t have to be innovative to become enjoyable, but it felt like they thought up this one over S’Mores. The tale had absolutely nothing to stand out, and it never seemed like it was worthy of our time.
Some of these complaints may appear irrelevant given the status of the average Bay flick. After all, it’s not like his films ever provided rich and realistic personalities. We go to Bay offerings to see raucous and exciting action, right? Yeah, but unfortunately, he failed to deliver the goods here. The action came across as excessive and pointless. None of those sequences did anything new or inventive, and they lacked the involvement and flair that I expect from Bay. He gave them the usual flashiness, but they never provoked a real reaction.
Over the years, I’ve defended the films of Michael Bay. Some criticize them for a lack of logic and an excessive emphasis on style over substance. I never had a problem with those issues because Bay’s flicks achieved what they set out to do. Unfortunately, that didn’t occur in Bad Boys II, a weak attempt at an action effort. Virtually no parts of it seemed compelling or effective, and it didn’t even manage to match up to the sporadic successes of its predecessor.