Bad Boys II
Bad Boys II is bad for all the expected reasons, terrible script (from Ron Shelton (?!), didn’t he make Bull Durham and Tin Cup?), wanton, pointless violence and a disregard for human life proudly unsurpassed (it is easy to criticize the scene where cadavers are being dropped on the highway but why they stole from the Charlie Sheen vehicle, The Chase, is beyond me), endless unoriginality and cribbing from every much better action film of the last 20 years (did they really have to steal from Police Story for the final chase, not to mention Leon, and even Formula 51?), crass product placement (hey let’s have huge trucks with Miller and Pepsi logos plastered on them drive into frame twice, neither having anything to do with the film) poor editing (when Will Smith is shooting at the drug dealers on the other side of the wall, Martin Lawrence is located in a bathroom shooting at the bad guys too, where exactly is this bathroom? Wouldn’t an establishing shot have been useful? Where are the bad guys that Lawrence is shooting at? Considering how many cuts there are in this movie, they couldn’t have afforded one more that would have told us where the bathroom is?), and a lavishness which should have been redirected towards thought, rather than glitz and sheen.
These things were all a given. But what of the race baiting, where characters aren’t identifiable or evil enough until they use racial epithets? Perhaps director Michael Bay should have used a telestrator, a la John Madden, to point out the audience using arrows who the bad guys were supposed to be, so we would know who to boo and hiss at. Maybe he should have given them all handlebar mustaches and they could spend their screen time twiddling them with their thumb and forefinger, just to get the point across. What is the purpose of the scene where the mother of the villain comes in and sees Gabrielle Union, comments on her beauty, and says “Is she a negro?” What about the opening KKK sequence? Then there’s the scaring Lawrence’s daughter’s date scene. But that’s too easy to pick apart and Roger Ebert already did that in his review. The constant homophobia and race baiting in the film reaches its apex at that point anyway.
What of the constant insults to the intelligence? Think of the scene in the electronics store where Smith and Lawrence push the employee around to make them play the evidence tape on one of the TV’s he’s selling. First of all, don’t they have televisions at police HQ? They have the camcorder, it’s not a format issue, it’s just plug and play. I know that’s supposed to set up scenes of shocked patrons, and I was almost willing to let them get away with it, until the following scene where Smith and Lawrence sit in a room full of camcorders and say things that could be construed as them having a homosexual relationship. Of course the entire store can hear their every word with crystal clarity. But the camera is 20 feet away and they are whispering. Not to mention that the sound isn’t even hooked up, so while maybe the customers can see the video but they wouldn’t be able to hear them. The worst part of the scene is as they are leaving, an angry black woman yells at them for being shameless and calls them faggots. I am not making that up. Who was that moment intended for? I guess it kind of works in with the rest of the film which should be retitled: Homosexual Panic: The Movie!
Would it even be necessary to delve into the final action sequence which takes place in Cuba? Why, exactly, is any US agency allowing Lawrence and Smith to siphon off their agents for an illegal mission in a country they have no jurisdiction over? And anyone who thinks this is a black bag operation needs to pay closer attention, as each agency seems to be condoning the action officially. And what about when they run over those people’s houses at the end? Is it suddenly okay to excuse that behavior with one line about how these people might make cocaine for drug dealers? Anyone else notice this appeared to be a shantytown with no evidence of anyone doing anything illegal other than hanging out their laundry to dry? And at the end, do we really need the pool gag twice?
And despite all of that, here is the biggest problem with the film, and a big reason why 98% of Hollywood movies have become completely impersonal. In the first 20 minutes, I counted 8 shots (and knowing Bay, that takes about 30 seconds of screen time at most), which would have required Bay to have actually been on set directing the actors. The rest of the shots could easily be handled by the second unit and stunt team. Every other shot was an insert, a pickup shot, a random shot of glitz (i.e. the club scene where the camera runs under the women’s legs), a stunt shot, a special effect, an actor saying their dialogue in an over the shoulder shot, or many other varieties of shots that normally don’t involve the main crew. However since the majority of the film is like that, it’s no wonder that the movie doesn’t seem to understand how to show human beings acting reasonably, because it simply doesn’t know what that is. If the entire movie is made up of impersonal, extraneous shots (and god knows that the movie itself is the near dictionary definition of extraneous), it’s no wonder the movie feels so impersonal. If what we have now is a bunch of 2nd unit directors acting like 1st unit directors, it makes a lot of sense that I rarely can relate to anyone in a movie anymore. Only David Fincher (other than Panic Room) seems to have transcended his 2nd unit status, but probably because he does care about the actors and the script.
I’m not asking for the movie to be 100% logical, no action movie ever is. A friend of mine has an 80-20 rule with action movies, that is that 80% of it has to make sense and be logical, and they can have the other 20% to exaggerate as much as they want and do ridiculous things with. It’s a theory I think is pretty sound. However, Bad Boys II features 0% logical scenes, and many laughable moments (and I don’t mean intentionally funny). One of the earliest action sequences (after the Miller ad, I know that people remember things by when the commercial product made a prominent appearance) has Smith and Lawrence chasing Union and when they finally catch up to her, the three of them have a conversation and she says, “You guys are going to blow my cover!” I was in hysterics over that. First of all, the conversation is in broad daylight and they are just standing out in the open. Secondly, there are villains everywhere and they were just involved in a mammoth chase involving many parties, some of whom were obviously cops. Wouldn’t they get a little suspicious? I always love the follow-up to that scene, where some of the bad guys steal Union’s car as all 3 of our heroes are standing there and do nothing, and she is so nonchalant about it as if it were expected. She passes it of as though it were an everyday occurrence. And then Smith and Lawrence just agree with her?
And at the center of the problem, why are they expending so much energy trying to sneak all that ecstasy past the government? Wouldn’t it be easier to simply make it the US? It certainly is made here in mass quantities. There’s no hard to find ingredients that can only be found in Cuba.
What about those laughable scenes with Peter Stormare (a great actor, hopefully picking up a great paycheck) where his business partner is murdered and the main villain informs him that because of this he will be taking over all of his night clubs. Is that all he had to do? Can I kill a guy and suddenly I get everything he owns? No scene where they take over the club, or show there was a change of management? And Stormare just accepts it? If he was really that rich and powerful, wouldn’t he have somebody working for him who might kill someone in return?
I don’t know how people can defend this movie, even as kinetic noise, since it’s ugly, unpleasant, and incoherent, failing at even its minimal level of ambition.