2 1/2 stars (out of 4)
"Bad Boys II" is the kind of movie that gives sequels a bad name, even though, strangely enough, it's better than the 1995 hit that spawned it. This movie reunites the detective team of Martin Lawrence and Will Smith for another wild pyrotechnic ride, and it plays like the buddy-cop action comedy to end them all. By the time the credits roll on this nonstop, stylishly bloody crash-a-thon, part of its audience may wish just that -- that "B.B. II" would stop the genre, at least for a while.
Director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer know how to press all the buttons, spend all the money, shoot off all the cliches. They're slick and shameless, and this second time around they've got a huge budget and even bigger stars (the Lawrence and Smith of today rather than the hot young TV stars of 1995). The result is a movie that is entertaining and exciting and doesn't let up for a second -- but one that is also sometimes jaw-droppingly awful. "Bad Boys II" gives new meaning to that overused phrase "over the top."
So do Lawrence and Smith. They're repeating their original roles as repressed family guy Marcus Burnett and swinging rich bachelor Mike Lowrey, two Miami detectives whose odd-couple anti-chemistry proves hellishly effective. Here, the boys are involved in another drug case, pursuing the lunatic, Cuban-born dope czar/mortuary king Hector Juan Carlos "Johnny" Tapia ( Jordi Molla) and his maniac buddies, Russian mobster Alexei ( Peter Stormare) and henchman Roberto ( Jon Seda). Our heroes have the mysterious help of Marcus' sister Syd ( Gabrielle Union), who is both Mike's secret lover and secretly working for the D.E.A.
While the boys' old boss, dyspeptic Captain Howard ( Joe Pantoliano), fumes -- and while their fellow cops, Mateo and Marco (Yul Vasquez and Jason Manuel Olazabal), razz them and cover their backs -- Marcus and Mike turn Miami into an insane playground, a melee of gun battles and car chases. "Bad Boys II" is a wildly energetic movie and also visually and technically imaginative, but there's often something nearly psychopathic about it.
The first "Bad Boys" was modest by comparison, a cliched but energetic riff on "Beverly Hills Cop" and "Lethal Weapon." "Bad Boys II" tries to blast us out of our seats and nail us to the wall. Every scene is pushed past the limit. Every camera angle is flashy, every cut explosive, every joke a screamer. At the end, the movie piles on more climaxes than a hip-hop version of the William Tell Overture.
The jokes are often as vicious as the action is preposterous, and though the movie makes heavy use of actual Miami cops and locations, it's set in that buddy-cop never-never land where heroes never wilt, even when thousands of rounds of ammunition are fired off at them and whole buildings explode in their faces. In fact, Marcus does sustain one injury here -- his partner accidentally shoots him in the buttocks -- and the movie uses that injury for a series of Rock Hudson-Tony Randall-style jokes that pop up with abandon between the gun battles and the coke gags.
The movie's showcase scene is a real hair-raiser, a "To Live and Die in L.A."-style freeway chase, brilliantly shot and cut but completely ridiculous. Since Tapia runs a string of mortuaries -- and uses the coffins and corpses to smuggle money and drugs -- we also get shots where Marcus climbs under the sheet with a female corpus delecti and the villains hurl dead bodies out of a hearse during a chase scene.
There are jokes about Buddhism, bodily functions, anger management, rat-infested money storage rooms, bloody eviscerations and, in a more lighthearted mood, a scene where Mike pretends to be a drug-addled ex-con to intimidate the nervous date of Marcus' daughter, and where Marcus goes goofy in front of Howard after mistakenly ingesting ecstasy.
How much you laugh depends on how hardened you are to this kind of film. But "Bad Boys II" does have something going for it besides its two feuding co-stars and surprisingly excellent supporting cast. Director Bay ("The Rock," "Pearl Harbor," "Armageddon") has never directed a good script. But he is a master of the new TV-video-derived, super-slick, in-your-face, action-movie style. In its hectic, nutty way, "Bad Boys II" is a movie that takes a lot of stylistic chances. The story is the same old crock of garbage, but every scene is spruced and revved, with Bay's camera performing acrobatic feats worthy of a wired-up Ridley Scott.
Unfortunately, most of "Bad Boys II" looks like something its own crazy gangsters and cops might enjoy. "B.B. II," a picture with anger management problems of its own, shows off a lot of what modern big studio moviemakers do well -- and much of what they do badly.
"Bad Boys II"
Directed by Michael Bay; written by Ron Shelton, Jerry Stahl; photographed by Amir Mokri; edited by Mark Goldblatt, Thomas A. Muldoon, Roger Barton; production designed by Dominic Watkins; music by Trevor Rabin; additional music by Dr. Dre; produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. A Columbia Pictures release; opens Friday, July 18. Running time: 2:20. MPAA rating: R (strong violence and action, pervasive language and sexuality).
Detective Marcus Burnett -- Martin Lawrence
Detective Mike Lowrey -- Will Smith
Hector Juan Carlos "Johnny" Tapia -- Jordi Molla
Syd -- Gabrielle Union
Alexei -- Peter Stormare
Theresa -- Theresa Randle
Captain Howard -- Joe Pantoliano
Roberto -- Jon Seda
TNT Leader -- Henry Rollins
Dan Marino -- Himself