THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


It’s been a long time since I walked out of a theater as mad as I did when I left Bad Boys II. Sitting through an awful movie (which this certainly is) is one thing; sitting through one that consistently offends you with its vulgarity and mean-spiritedness is another. Even now, almost 24 hours later, I am still disgusted by the very thought of this film. I find it shocking that major stars and a major Hollywood studio would release something as hateful as this.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence re-team with director Michael Bay (Pearl Harbor, Armageddon) and producer Jerry Bruckheimer for this sequel to the 1995 original, which was itself a piece of junk. Smith and Lawrence play Miami cops Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett. They are trying to track down a Cuban drug dealer who is smuggling large quantities of Ecstasy into the United States. Marcus has a sister named Syd (Gabrielle Union) who is an undercover DEA agent. She has infiltrated the dealer’s business by helping him launder money. What Marcus doesn’t know is that Syd is also romantically involved with Mike. The trail of the drugs leads to a KKK rally, then to a nightclub run by a Russian mobster (Peter Stormare), then to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

That’s all the plot description I’m going to provide because, really, that’s all I’m able to. The screenplay for Bad Boys II is all over the map. This is an example of what they call “screenwriting by committee.” Rather than having one person write the script, multiple (sometimes dozens of) writers all take a pass at it, often resulting in sheer confusion. Four different writers are credited on the film, and several others were credited in previews and press material before the Writer’s Guild arbitration decided whose names would actually appear on the screen. This lack of a decent story results in a meandering film. Movies like this need a tight script to generate suspense. You need to understand how everything that happens connects to the big picture. In this case, that doesn’t happen, so nothing is interesting: not the bad guy, not the search for the drugs, not the romance between Mike and Syd. Michael Bay has to shoulder some of the blame here too. His cut of the movie runs an appalling 2 ½ hours. This movie should be at least a full hour shorter.

This would be a good time to reiterate something I have said before: Michael Bay is a talentless director. He is inept and incompetent. Bay does not know how to tell a story coherently, and he does not know how to build suspense or excitement. To compensate for this, he creates a lot of mayhem on-screen so that viewers might be distracted. Bay pans the camera, and swoops the camera, and has the camera rush toward things. Cars crash and blow up, bullets are fired, and so on. Despite all the chaos we see in Bad Boys II - and there is a lot of it - there is not one single moment that serves to be truly exciting. Bay also has a nasty streak, as he allows way too many stereotypes in this film. Gays and Hispanics in particular are offensively portrayed as swishy and/or prissy. Women are treated as sex objects, often referred to as “bitches.” During a nightclub scene, Bay runs the camera along the floor, with the lens pointed north so that he is able to shoot up women’s skirts.

In his other movies, Bay has displayed a tasteless obsession with the bombastic. The man loves overkill. I thought perhaps this style would work for what is obviously a mindless action picture, but the assignment has brought out the worst in the director. Because Bad Boys II allows many opportunities for violence, Bay goes out of his way to find “cool” ways to show it. In recent years, there has been an ongoing debate about whether or not movies glamorize violence. Here’s one that unequivocally does. We see the bloody trajectories of numerous bullets, all in stomach churning slow-motion. Bullets rip through skin, tear through limbs, and splatter brains. The violence in this movie made me literally sick to my stomach. From the way violence is presented, it’s obvious that we are supposed to get off on how “awesome” it is. For instance, after the bad guy is fatally shot at the end, his body is needlessly blown up. We see the lower half of the man’s bloody torso fly through the air and hit the ground with a sickeningly squishy thud. Since he’s already dead, what was the point of mutilating him as well, except to get a knee-jerk bloodlust reaction from the crowd?

Infuriating as they are, confused plots and excessive violence are not uncommon in today’s big budget action movies. It’s the mean-spirited tone of Bad Boys II than sinks it from being just really lousy to being downright appalling. Let me give you some examples of the cruelty this movie finds funny. A very nice, respectful teenage boy comes to pick up Marcus’s daughter for a date. To fool with the kid, Marcus and Mike try to convince him that they are crazy. Marcus threatens the boy, essentially, with prison rape, while Mike points a loaded gun at the kid’s head. Here’s a boy who shows up well-dressed, with very polite behavior and sincere intentions. Why does the movie think it’s funny for him to be threatened so badly?

But wait - it gets worse. There’s a scene where the cops are chasing a hearse. The rear doors fly open and corpses begin falling out the back. They get run over by other cars. One of them has its head popped off during the fall. It’s absolutely disgusting. Mike and Marcus then break into a mortuary where they believe drugs are being hidden inside dead bodies. There’s a needlessly graphic shot of Will Smith reaching into a corpse, pulling organs out as he looks for drugs. Lawrence, meanwhile, bumps into a corpse on a table and knocks the guy’s cranium off, resulting in a close-up of exposed brains.

Those moments are sickening and offensive, but here’s the worst. Marcus pulls the sheet off a corpse, revealing a dead woman with very large breasts. Bay films the dead woman’s blue, bloodless breasts in close-up - a manner that suggests we are to be titillated by them. (I felt like I was watching cinematic necrophilia.) Several minutes are spent with the characters examining and discussing the breasts. When he hears someone coming down the hall, Marcus crawls under the sheet with the woman. Bay then films underneath the sheet, with the dead woman’s breasts filling up almost the entire widescreen image.

I ask you: is this funny? Is this entertainment? I was absolutely outraged by Bad Boys II. The level of nastiness in this film is astonishing. Watching it made me feel dirty. When I go see something like this, I expect it to be fun and exciting; I don’t expect to walk out feeling like I’ve just been assaulted. Everyone involved in the making of this picture ought to be ashamed, particularly Will Smith, who is such a role model to young people. This movie is sick and disturbed. Smith and Lawrence ought to make a public apology. Michael Bay should be forbidden to ever get behind a camera again. One has to wonder what kind of contempt these people have for the audience to turn out such a violent, repulsive, degrading film and then expect us to laugh at it.

If there are movie theaters in Hell, Bad Boys II is certain to be a perpetual feature.

(1/2 out of four)

Bad Boys II is rated R for strong violence and action, pervasive language, sexuality and drug content. The running time is 2 hours and 26 minutes.

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