After taking a serious drubbing after his tone deaf tale of exploding ships and billowing Hawaiian shirts that was Pearl Harbour, sunset enthusiast and all round purveyor of fireballs of all shapes and sizes, Michael Bay must have been wondering what on earth to do next.
Realizing that maybe his strengths may not lie in conjuring up a Titanic-style romance set among the brutal, wartime deaths of 2,403 people, Bay did what so many directors do when they hit a critical cul-de-sac and turn back to a previous hit to retain some former glory.
That hit was the 1995 action comedy, Bad Boys; a movie made in simpler times, before Bay orchestrated the cinematic napalming of Alcatraz island or flattened Paris with a flaming hunk of space rock and it’s stars had come a long way since then too. Will Smith was now a bonafide mega star despite still smarting from the confusing disaster that was Wild Wild West while Martin Lawrence had made… Big Momma’s House and Black Knight…
Look… they were bigger stars than they were, is what I’m trying to say, and bringing everyone back to give all three of them a box office boost seemed like a magnificent no brainer…
Of course a magnificent no brainer is exactly what we got.
We rejoin body count comparing narcotics officers Lowery and Burnett during a low key and extraordinarily subtle stakeout where they’ve decided put on white robes, infiltrated the KKK and caused a massive shootout in front of a 25 foot burning cross which manages to leave Burnett with a bullet hole in his butt cheek and a massive desire to retire. Lowery, who fired the bullet that injured his partner, puts this down to Burnett’s temper, but to his surprise finds out that the anger management classes his brother in arms has been attending have strengthened his resolve to quit while he’s still alive. Arriving in Miami to put an even further crack in their friendship is the appearance of Burnett’s sister, Syd, whom Lowery has been seeing in secret. Working undercover to bring down elusive, stringy-haired, drug kingpin Johnny Tapia, Syd manages to get the quip happy, bullet spraying duo involved – which is not only bad news for Tapia, but for anyone in Miami who pays damage insurance on anything from property to their car. As the partners indulge in numerous car chases, gun fights and bizarre farcical situations involving everything from Burnett accidentally ingesting ecstasy to the improper handling of plus sized corpses, their “investigation” (if you can call ANYTHING that Lowery and Burnett does as legitimate police work) takes them from the sun soaked roads of their native Maimi to a full on invasion of Cuba (see what I mean?). Can the two bring Tapia to justice, save Syd and still remain friends?
The actual plot of Bad Boys 2 is nonsensical to the point of being nonexistent, the barest of story threads allowing Bay to string scene after random scene of either farcical comedy skits or impressively overblown action sequences that could literally be re-edited into any order that and it wouldn’t affect the character arcs or plot in the slightest. Obnoxiously loud, frequently offensive and impressively, if unnecessarily, epic; Bay Boys 2 is that most jarring of experiences, Michael Bay acting without a solitary shred of restraint. EVERYTHING is turned up to the max, like a drunken frat boy over-compensating to prove how extreme he is by simply screaming “EXTREME” a lot and then jumping off a roof despite nobody asking him to.
This results in some admittedly stupendous action with the first of it’s three (three!!) car chases, which features cars being hurled off a truck into speeding traffic, ranks as one of the best of the decade, but Bay’s scattershot A.D.D. directing results in some baffling inconsistencies. The huge amount of ad-libbing means that every single scene, be it action or comedy, just sort of abruptly stops without reaching a organic or satisfying conclusion and random head scratching action clunkers surface, on average, every 6 minutes or so. For example, watch Smith hurtle towards a Haitian drug gang all wielding significant fire power in his souped up car only to pull an epic handbrake turn while emptying a full clip of machine gun fire into the closest assailant, spitting a super cool pay off line and then gunning the engine and roaring off – leaving the remain police to fend for themselves against the seven other maniacs he elected NOT to shoot at.
The humour is as entertainingly bewildering as the action with Bay’s heavily un-PC sensibilities either scoring big – Joe Pantoliano’s rage fueled rants and Burnett and Lowery verbally attacking the 13 year old hoping to date the former’s daughter (“motherfucker, you look 30!”) – or providing a questionable source of casual homophobia and racism.
Also, for such a huge production, it actively and blatantly steals from other movies. The climatic scene where two vehicles hurtle down a steep hill littered with explodey shacks is literally ripped off, almost shot for shot from the opening of Jackie Chan’s Police Story. When your multi-million dollar action movie ends where a 1980’s actioner begins, you’ve sort of fucked up…
But despite it’s chasm-deep flaws (No action comedy should be two hours and twenty seven bloody minutes long!!) there’s something childishly and refreshingly fun about something so wilfully and skillfully idiotic that it wins you over with it’s sheer noisy enthusiasm – hey, don’t hate, Edgar Wright agrees with me, just watch Hot Fuzz.
A clattering cacophony of gunfire, explosions, screaming and foul mouthed tirades, Bad Boys 2 is hardly art, but to quote the title song with a shrug: What you gonna do?