“You ain’t seen BAD BOYS II!?”
We are all fortunately or unfortunately aware of Michael Bay’s pedigree. That which primarily concerns the visceral act of blowing shit up. Hey, at least he does it with finesse and a good haircut. And it’s a good thing that he started doing it prior to 2003, or the world would not have the 147 minute, $130 million dollar epic of aggressive sleaze that is BAD BOYS II.
Sometime, probably after the disaster (of a film) that was PEARL HARBOR, Bay thought to himself “Oh, hey, I haven’t yet made a film where car chases involve dead bodies potentially filled with money, millions of rounds of ammo, cars being thrown at other cars, and a speed boat on a highway.” And then he formed the rest of the plot of BAD BOYS II around it. For a film that runs near two-and-a-half hours, there isn’t a whole lot of story going on here, unless you count the padded relationship drama of its two leads.
Audiences, who have previously laughed with Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, cringed with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover and tried to forget about Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans can now cry with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. For all of its exploding speed boats, dreadlocked Haitian shoot outs and Hummer car chases, BAD BOYS II is a lot of drama. You see, one of them (Will Smith) is a suave, (sort of) single man with a penchant for getting into dangerous situations and the other (Martin Lawrence) is a family man, with an erection problem. It sounds funny, but it’s actually sad.
But, let’s be honest, nobody is watching BAD BOYS II to find out if Lawrence’s erection problem goes away or if Smith finds an honest relationship. The people want violence and Bay has seen fit to give it to them. Hot off two mega-budget PG-13 disaster flicks – PEARL HARBOR and ARMAGEDDON – Bay returns to his gritty R-rated action origins of the first BAD BOYS and his sophomore, and most critically lauded effort, THE ROCK. The 2000s, especially the early part, were pretty dry in regards to hard R action fare. Hell, even the 90s were outside of Van Dammage and some middling Seagal efforts, but Bay has taken 80s style carnage and abandon for all innocent life and thrown one hundred and thirty million dollars at it. Did you ever watch 48 HOURS and wish that Murphy and Nolte could blow up an entire mansion just for the hell of it? Did you ever want to see severed heads rolling down the freeway in LETHAL WEAPON? No, well apparently Michael Bay did.
To call BAD BOYS II excessive wouldn’t really be fair. It revels in excess, both in comedy, violence and on screen banter. As a comedy it is ugly and mean, as an action movie it is disgusting and loud and as a buddy movie it features more on screen arguing than even John Marley and Gena Rowlands muster in FACES. It’s vile, morally reprehensible escapism of the highest (and most expensive) order. They didn’t make movies like this before BAD BOYS II and they haven’t really since.
Bay’s opus has seen some recognition following its enormous box office grosses in 2003, much thanks to Edgar Wright’s buddy cop homage film HOT FUZZ. In 2007, when HOT FUZZ was released, Pop Matters interviewed Wright and asked him about BAD BOYS II, here’s what he had to say:
“I’m sure when he was making PEARL HARBOR he thought that was his Oscar gold right there,” Wright hypothesizes. “But he followed it up with BAD BOYS II, which couldn’t be farther from it. The one thing you cannot accuse BAD BOYS II of is being pretentious. So I think maybe he had a moment of clarity after PEARL HARBOR and thought, `OK, clearly my TITANIC was not to be. Let’s follow it up with the most aggressively destructive, immoral, spectacular cop film that we can come up with,’ and that was BAD BOYS II. I think if he atoned for his sins of PEARL HARBOR by making BAD BOYS II, he deserves some credit.”
Sounds about right to me. At least Bay tried to atone for PEARL HARBOR with something utterly tasteless; all James Cameron gave us was AVATAR. Ho hum. That all said, you’ve likely never seen anything like BAD BOYS II unless you have seen BAD BOYS II. If nothing else, you get to see Martin Lawrence watch a couple of rats fuck on top of a pile of money. It’s so fitting that it almost works as a metaphor. For what, you’d have to ask Michael Bay.
BAD BOYS II is part of our Alternate Reality Cornetto Trilogy. It screens on Saturday, July 27th at 6:00 pm.