The thing is, I never really saw myself as the type of person who would ever watch Bad Boys II. But a couple nights ago, when a friend of mine ran a showing on his big screen home theatre system, I stuck around for the whole thing, and you know what? It wasn't bad.
I mean, of course it's a ridiculous piece of dogshit, completely unrealistic, overbearingly jingoistic, trite and fluffy. But once you settle in and realize exactly what type of film you're watching, and agree to watch on its terms, Bad Boys II definitely has something to offer.
Now frankly, I'm not sure I even saw all of the first “Bad Boys” but I don't think you really need to have seen it to catch all the plot eccentricities of part II. The story goes as follows. The two leads, black Miami cops, played by Martin Lawrence and Will Smith (I realize you'd have to have spent the past three years in Saddam's torture rooms to not know this) start off by going undercover at a Klan rally. (Literally undercover - get it? Because of the sheets? It's a clever cinematic word pun.) They pop out, kill 10 or so white power pig fuckers and then let the cavalry (a SWAT team led by, of all people, Henry Rollins) ride in. The next day, Martin Lawrence's totally hot sister shows up, and she turns out to be a DEA agent who's trying to infiltrate a Cuban gang led by a Hispanic Gary Oldman looking motherfucker. Then... stuff happens, uh, there's some Russians, lots of shooting, a great car chase with machine gun toting Haitians, Will and Martin breaking into a morgue and then a final scene where the boys fly down to Cuba and create what could only be described as an international incident of epic proportions.
So, yeah, shit, it's stupid... but let me tell you about this one car chase. (And I'm the type of motherfucker who thought he'd seen all the car chases he could handle, but this is something else.) The Haitians are driving one of those car transport semis across the freeway with our heroes right behind them. The bad guys decide to start releasing their payload of cars, one by one, on to the Miami freeway and the result is one of the best moments of mindless destruction ever to grace the silver screen. (The only thing that comes close to it is a scene in the same film when the Bad Boys drive a hummer through a coke-producing shantytown in Cuba, literally blowing up each of the chemically volatile houses as they go.)
But the whole Bad Boys franchise is about more than gratuitous and impossible action, it's about bathroom humor, and lots of it. Personally, I've never really dug Martin Lawrence, the official "comedian" in the group. I thought his TV show, "Martin" was a piece of shit (and I'm open to black sitcoms - I love "The Parkers" and "The Wayans Brothers.") and never really dug his movies. ("The Blue Streak" or that one with Tim Robbins where he freaked out and started waving a gun around downtown Los Angeles.) But in Bad Boys II, he definitely shows some skillz. It's painfully obvious that he's a third rate Richard Pryor, and totally dependent on swearing to get a laugh*, but he's comfortable, even proud pursuing the lowbrow mantle which can carry a jokemeister far. Smith on the other hand, is a guy I don't think gets enough props a legitimate comedian; he's let himself be overshadowed by his careers as a rapper and Hollywood power player. He's a good foil for Lawrence's schtick and the two have a real chemistry together.
*Like a lot of Pryor's act, Lawrence doesn't so much tell jokes, as simply offer up a stream of cursing while contorting his face into a series of cartoonish expressions – sounds pretty lame on paper but can work onscreen.
There's a great scene where they bond in a video store while discussing the fact that Smith had accidently shot Martin in the ass the night previous, and of course there conversation comes out like two gay lovers who suffered through rough play the night before. (Remember this kids: homos will ALWAYS be funny til the end of time!) About an hour later comes another great comedy moment when the two team up to interrogate a young homie who's come to take Lawrence's daughter out for her first date. (Hint: The word “nigga” is used repetitively and Smith is waving around a bottle of bourbon.)
The real downside of Bad Boys II is that… well, it's just completely impossible. I know, I know… it's an action film. I shouldn't expect it to be bound to the same laws of physics and plot that pervaded “The English Patient,” but a good Hollywood knows how far they can push our suspension of belief. The Indiana Jones series, for example, created a world that might have been improbable but still had an element of believability. Bad Boys II carries things to such ridiculous extremes you find your eyeballs doing continuous 360s in their sockets. Even if I bought the idea of Martin and Will not being killed by the deluge of bullets, cars, boats and corpses (Did I mention the scene where they chase a van filled with cadavers?) that come their way, I can't buy that they'd still have their jobs. And it's really a testament to the writing and acting of the film that this bothers me. See, if the Bad Boys were mere cardboard cutout characters, I would have no problem with them existing in some Looney Tunes universe. But I like them – I want them to be real – I want to believe that out their somewhere in my realm, they exist. But with every ludicrous plot turn of action sequence the movie slaps me in the face, reminding me that the world of Bad Boys II is beyond human reach.
One also can't help notice the weird sort of blind patriotism of the film. Granted, after Sept 11th the undeniably liberal mentality of Hollywood has been toned down a bit, but even I was a surprised at the unquestioning nationalism of the film. For the first 3/4ths of the movie this is seen in small ways – all the baddies are foreigners, Haitian, Russians, Cubans (though, to be fair, Miami is a hotbed of non-anglo criminal activity) – but the kicker comes at the end. Lawrence's sister is kidnapped and flown down to the love shack of a Cuban crime lord. The Bad Boys and a few rogue DEA and CIA agents team up with the anti-Castro underground to stage an impromptu attack on foreign soil, and they don't even wait for UN approval! It hard not to see this as a allegory to the Iraq War: our shoot-from-the-hip heroes, faced with an impending disaster, bypass the red tape of politics and protocol and preemptively strike a maniacal criminal mastermind. One has to wonder what Lawrence's former cast mate Tim Robbins thought about the film. (Or for that matter, Bad Boys II co-scripter Jerry Stahl, who's recent fiction offering “Plainclothes Naked” can easily be described as anti-Bush.)
Granted, on it's surface there's not way you'll confuse Bad Boys II with your average Chuck Norris flick. After all, the two leads are unmistakably African American in both appearance and manner. But if you take away the fashion and inflections there's very little “blackness” to them. They both live in nice upper middle class houses, they are seemingly very well paid and neither of them smoke crack. (Not that I'm saying black people can't have nice houses or be rich… well, I guess I am actually.) Maybe I've just been so brainwashed by the portrayal of black protagonists in every other action film* – that of soul brothers who even if they do gain material affluence still burn with a seething anger of “the man,” – that I can't accept two angstless black dudes who just wanna have fun. Maybe Bad Boys II is actually trying to burst this unfair stereotype of black men and years from now will be seen as a positive step towards American racial harmony. Maybe…
* See XXX, XXXX, or any film with Wesley Snipes or Carl Weathers.