Monday 16 January 2012

Movie Review: Bad Boys II (2003)

Applying the principle of go big or go home, director Michael Bay goes huge. Transforming a buddy cop movie into an outright spectacle almost 150 minutes in length, Bad Boys II is somewhat enjoyable for its sheer bravado, and outdoes the original in glitz, glamour, and extreme violence.

Large shipments of Ecstasy are being shipped into Miami. Narcotics detectives Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) are assigned to find the importer and stop the flow of drugs. After tangling with the Ku Klux Klan, the trail leads to Cuban gangster Johnny Tapia (Jordi Molla), who is establishing himself as the lord of the underworld and brutally eliminating competing criminals. Complicating matters is Sydney Burnett (Gabrielle Union), Marcus' sister and DEA agent, herself part of a separate team trying to take down Tapia.

After numerous chases and gun battles, Burnett and Lowrey achieve a breakthrough when they uncover Tapia's favoured method for transporting drugs, involving dead bodies and caskets. But Tapia won't give up his empire quietly, and he grabs a hostage and heads for the refuge of his home country, triggering a climactic mercenary raid resembling more of a military operation than police work.

Bad Boys II soars during several exhilarating, prolonged action sequences. An ultra violent car chase that starts on the street system before migrating to the freeway has bad guys commandeering a car transporter truck and using vehicles as projectiles while Burnett and Lowrey give chase in a Ferrari. Bay elevates carnage to art, and sets a new standard for adrenaline-powered wanton vehicular destruction.

A bloody shootout in the hideout of a Haitian gang achieves similar brilliance. Bay's cameras seamlessly rotate around walls, squeeze through holes in the concrete, and zoom to where the bullets are heading in a highly kinetic visual ballet of impending death, as a steady stream of banter between Burnett and Lowrey adds humorous icing to the gritty scene.

And just to add an exclamation point, the plot contrives to have a Hummer plough through an entire hillside shanty town at breakneck speed, causing all sorts of hidden drug labs to explode in the process.

As can be expected in a knowingly overblown extravaganza, many other sequences in Bad Boys II don't work nearly as well. When Burnett and Lowrey verbally abuse a teenager who arrives on Burnett's doorstep to date his daughter, the exchange quickly degenerates from comic to hurtfully cruel. Burnett suffering the consequences of inadvertently swallowing two Ecstasy pills veers into cheap slapstick.

With the tornado of non-stop action, it is a surprise that the characters are not totally short-changed. There are enough dialogue exchanges to generate some clumsy humour and awkward humanity. Will Smith hits his stride quickly as the smooth Mike Lowrey, leaving the agitation to Martin Lawrence as Marcus Burnett suffers through a full-blown crisis of purpose caused by the high likelihood that wherever Lowrey happens to be, dead bodies are sure to follow. Jordi Molla is given plenty of time to develop Johnny Tapia into an entertaining, over-the-top drug ganglord. Gabrielle Union as Burnett's sister and DEA agent Sydney places herself in the middle of the buddy relationship by romancing Lowrey and going undercover as a money launderer providing services to Tapia.

Bad Boys II is about large explosions, vivid colours, wild shoot-outs, insane stunts, high speed chases, unconstrained energy, almost gruesome violence, incessant foul language and a dash of humour. With everything louder than everything else, it delivers artistically brawny sensory overload.

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