Bad Boys II – 2003
Directed by Michael Bay
Written by lots of people

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence act sassy and make wisecracks at each other, interspersed with an insane amount of explosions and violence. This is all the “plot” you will need.

From the Capalert review of Bad Boys II:

This film must be a measure of the impression filmmakers have about how desensitized we have become to carnage and violence and how much more it takes in each new exposure to satisfy us: an attempt to give us the fix we want after having been overdosed so many times by extremes. Indeed, we have been drugged by exponentially more severe extremes for so long that what once was morally unacceptable has become morally invisible.

I can’t believe it, but I find myself in agreement with the Capalert review of this film (other than the whole morality thing). Do me a favor and check out the Starship Troopers node, in there you will find a long-running discussion about the relative merits of the film and whether it was intended to be a work of satire or not. I find myself asking the same question with Bad Boys II.

Bad Boys II is the end of action movies. I cannot comprehend an American film that could ever contain more wanton violence (well that lasted about three months, hello Kill Bill), gratuitous sex, and generic action movie tropes as this one. Was Michael Bay serious in making this film? Or did he look back over the past 20 years of action movies (especially his cinematic oeuvre) and decide to make a commentary at how absurd it’s all gotten? Everything from the car chases to the camerawork is taken to its absolute extreme, so much that it actually becomes laughable. Bad Boys II is what Last Action Hero wishes it could have been.

The plot is a nice little combination of almost every major cop movie since 48 Hours. You have your wisecracking mismatched partners, their exasperated Captain who’s sick of explaining their screwball antics to the commissioner, no respect between the local cops and the feds, Central American drug smugglers, the Russian mafia, and even a boatload of communists thrown in for good measure. None of the major clichés are missing. No wait! There isn’t any sign of the “cop who gets killed two days before retirement.” DAMMIT!

What do I mean by gratuitous sex? Let’s have a few examples: In one of the opening sequences, a young woman walks though a pounding dance club distributing ecstasy to the dancers. This scene is shot entirely with the camera on the floor, looking upwards between the woman’s legs as she walks around. Later on, Smith and Lawrence are having a conversation on the beach (why are they sitting at the beach while there is a major investigation going on? I don’t know!). As they are sitting and talking, a woman wearing a thong saunters through the frame, but instead of continuing with the conversation, the camera continues left and follows the woman’s ass! Or there’s the films 285th car chase, which involves running over several naked bodies from the mortuary (complete with head-popping action). Or Martin Lawrence’s ill-fated gurney ride on top of the naked body of a dead stripper. Or the wacky scene with the giant copulating rats.

The violence is unbelievable, with headshots galore. Thousands of rounds of ammunition are expended and a fountain of blood accompanies every bullet hit. People step on land mines and body parts go a’ flying. Speeding cars provide the dance and Desert Eagles provide the dialogue.

Even Bay’s camerawork goes beyond its usual frame-fucking glory. If he made his shots any closer, the camera would be in the actor’s mouths. He pulls out every possible trick in the book, from your standard slow-motion barrel roll gunfight, to bullet time, to photogrammetry. The action sequences are edited beyond all recognition until they simply devolve into complete chaos on the screen. Bay also uses a kind of sweeping shot that flies around a specific item, showing the tableau from all angles at once, (I wish I could think of a better way to explain it) that wouldn’t be out of place in any other action movie. Except Bad Boys II manages to use it in almost every scene, the camera might be focused on a gun, or a briefcase full of money, or even John Salley’s coffee cup.

What is Bad Boys II? A commentary on what the American action film has become? On what the American public is willing to swallow under the guise of entertainment? Or is it simply one of the biggest, loudest, nastiest mainstream movies ever sold?

I don’t know.

All I can say is, I enjoyed it thoroughly

And I admit that this movie appealed to only my most base urges and instincts. It was only after sitting down and thinking about it that I realized all this stuff that you read above. While I was sitting in the packed theater, surrounded by the hooting, raucous audience, all I could do was wonder about what insane shit was going to come up on the screen next. It was violent, it was chauvinistic, it was astonishing, and it was terrible. I enjoyed every second of it for those exact reasons. It was the theater of the absurd.

The famed film critic Pauline Kael once said, “The movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash we have very little reason to be interested at all.” Bad Boys II is trash. Wonderful, glorious, great trash.

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