Bad Boys II is the definitive action trashterpiece of the 2000s and the most Michael Bay movie ever made. It is bloated and indulgent, violent and excessive. It is an ugly, hateful movie -- racist, misogynist and homophobic. It is also thrillingly made at times, offering action set pieces that are bigger and more spectacular than anything else in its class. It is the ne plus ultra of Michael Bay movies: the most confidently made piece of shit in all of action cinema.
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence reprise their roles as Mike Lowrey and Marcus Bennett, Miami narcotics detectives on the case to bring down Johnny Tapia (Jordi Mollà), the Cuban drug kingpin who is bringing tons of harmful ecstasy into Miami but is untouchable because he sues the department (and wins) every time they try to bust him. Marcus' sister Syd (Gabrielle Union) is also working the case undercover as part of the DEA, as well as having a relationship in secret with Mike. You know, the way adults do. It's all really, really stupid, but at least a lot of people get murdered and a lot of shit gets destroyed.
For what is essentially a buddy cop movie -- a weakness of mine, I must admit -- Bad Boys II has a surprising pedigree. It's got Michael Bay directing at the top of his game, determined to shake off the eager-to-please attempt at respectability that was Pearl Harbor by making a movie that is the complete opposite: the most nihilistic, irresponsible action movie he could get to screens. Will Smith, whose leading man career more or less started with his turn in Bay's Bad Boys, is now one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Jerry Bruckheimer returned to produce, now without longtime partner Don Simpson (who died in 1996, leaving behind a body that was 66% cocaine) even though the Simpson/Bruckheimer imprint still appears at the top of the film. The screenplay is by Jerry Stahl (of Permanent Midnight fame) and Ron Shelton, writer and director of Bull Durham, White Men Can't Jump and the much better cop movies Dark Blue and Hollywood Homicide. Dr. Dre contributed to the score. Sean "P. Diddy" Combs was the "music consultant." With a $130 million price tag, the budget for the sequel is 500% larger than the first movie, shot for $23 million just eight years prior. The amount of resources behind this movie is fucking staggering.
Not helping matters this time out is the fact that both Will Smith and Martin Lawrence have become completely insufferable in their roles. While not exactly three dimensional in the original movie, enough attention was paid to their characters that we felt like we got to know a) how these two were friends and b) how they were different from one another -- one a family man, one a trust-fund playboy. In theory, those are still the characters they're playing in Bad Boys II, but that's as far as their characterization goes: they have the same names and we should remember them from before. The attempts at "growth" are to have Will Smith start to settle down in secret with his best friend's sister, who I can only assume is like a sister to him as well...so that's messed up...and to have Martin Lawrence get into some self-help mantra chanting and try to soften by apologizing to the people he's hurt, sometimes in the middle of a shootout. Don't worry; he eventually gives in and just punches the guys to whom he's apologizing in the face because this is a Michael Bay movie and only gay pussies say "I'm sorry." All of the dialogue between Mike and Marcus is insufferable; it's nothing more than profanity laden insults and complaining that tries to pass itself off as banter. It's miserable to be in the company of these two.
This is why I really think Bad Boys II is Michael Bay's mission statement. I mean, he literally places his "Directed by" credit over the image of a BURNING CROSS. He gets to do everything he loves: stage expensive chaos, blow things up, compose beautiful images and depict every human being on the face of the earth as either worthy of being mocked or among the elite few who get to do the mocking. That Bay tries to pass off this bile as some big joke is even grosser because it attempts to rob the very real ugliness of its weight by suggesting we think it's as funny as he does. It's like when a person tries to tell you a racist joke; first you're offended that the person is a racist, but then you're even more offended that for some reason they thought you would find it funny. That's every Michael Bay movie, but none more so than Bad Boys II. There's a lot of the same ugliness in Bay's Pain & Gain, but it's all couched in the context of a "black comedy" and the characters are all meant to be pathetic, awful people, which grants Bay the latitude of ironic distance. In Bad Boys II, all the same misanthropic, hateful homophobia and racism and misogyny is coming out of the mouths of the two heroes, at least one of which is made to look impossibly cool every single time he's on screen (spoilers: it's Will Smith).