Some movie lovers can easily pick and choose what they want to consume when it comes to a film series. Not me. When I sit down to spend time with a series, as long as the first few installments interest me, I am in it for the long haul. Sometimes this results in what I like to call “cinemasochism”. Other times I end up finding a diamond in the rough. The only way to know for sure is to consume it all, tolerate the poison, and report back my findings. Now it’s time for you to sit back, relax, and let this Cineater imbibe whole franchises in order to sniff out which entries are actually worth your time. My first subject: Bad Boys!
Bad Boys II (2003)
Directed by Michael Bay
Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer
Screenplay by The Wibberleys, Ron Shelton, and Jerry Stahl
Starring Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Gabrielle Union, Jordi Molla, Peter Stormare, Oleg Taktarov, Joe Pantoliano, and Theresa Randle
Eight years and three subsequent films later, gonzo action director Michael Bay returned to the Bad Boys franchise no longer a novice and boy does it ever show. To be perfectly honest, Bad Boys II might be the most Michael Bay thing to ever exist. A 147-minute beast of an action flick, it is literally just setpiece after setpiece after setpiece, with each one managing to somehow top the previous one. That’s no small feat, given that the picture gets things going early on with one of the most insane car chases I have ever seen.
Whereas Bad Boys felt like Bay doing his best to ape early Tony Scott within the confines of a cookie cutter Bruckheimer/Simpson cop script, Bad Boys II feels like he somehow overdosed on cocaine while watching John Woo, Johnnie To, and Jackie Chan films and shot a movie instead of dying. It is an almost non-stop cacophony of adrenaline-fueled, delirious ridiculousness.
This is a good thing.
Smith and Lawrence may not have made anything together during the 8-year gap, but their chemistry hasn’t lost a single step. In fact, it’s even better. Perhaps we can chalk it up to them both improving greatly as dramatic performers in the interim, but they are absolutely on fire here and the film is never better than when they are playing off of one another. I could watch these two men argue over a meal together for two hours without a single shot fired and remain enthralled.
What makes things is even better is that the supporting cast is dramatically improved this time around. The original had a scenery-chewing Tcheky Karyo and angry captain Joe Pantoliano, but came up a bit short beyond those two. Pantoliano is back and in top form here, of course, but he’s not alone. Our scene-chewing baddies are now Jordi Molla and Peter Stormare, which should tell you everything you need to know about whether or not they deliver the good. (They do.)
Furthermore, Bay also offers up a wildly entertaining turn from Michael Shannon as a racist hick drug dealer and a beyond capable Gabrielle Union as Lawrence’s DEA agent sister, who happens to have a thing for Smith’s character. Toss in Oleg Taktarov, Henry Rollins, and a returning Theresa Randle and what more could you possibly need? Nothing. The correct answer is nothing.
The script is…well…it’s a tonal rollercoaster. Which isn’t too surprisingly, since it comes from the writers of Bull Durham, Permanent Midnight, and the National Treasure duology, with uncredited humor punch-ups by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Judd Apatow. There’s a hefty amount of homophobic humor sprinkled throughout, but that was unfortunately par for the course at the time. What an absolutely bizarre assortment of writing talent! Not that it particularly matters when one has the Big Bayhem at the wheel. With a cast this game and action this dynamic, even a filmed phone book listing could be wildly engaging.
The chief criticism of this picture, aside from the offensive humor, is usually that it is a heinously obnoxious piece of movie-making. They’re not wrong. Bad Boys was a pretty breezy and standard piece of action movie storytelling, whereas Bad Boys II is repeatedly punching you in the face with its visuals and editing. You’re either up for such unrepentant style or you’re not. No judgement if you fall into the latter category, but I firmly consider myself among the former. I love this bonkers slice o’ Bayhem!
Technically the next installment of the Bad Boys saga is a spin-off TV series, “L.A.’s Finest“. Launched in 2019 and awaiting its second season later this year, the show centers around Gabrielle Union’s character and her new career as an LAPD detective. Her partner? Jessica Alba. Unfortunately, I will not be covering the series at this time. Partially because I would rather focus on films for now, but mostly because it airs on a channel that I currently have no access to (Spectrum). As a result, my next piece will skip straight to this year’s hit revival sequel, Bad Boys for Life!