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'Bad Boys II'

Driven to excess

Friday, July 18, 2003

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

When Will Smith appeared on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," the host suggested it was payback time. All those men who had been dragged to the romantic comedy "Alex & Emma" (and frankly there haven't been many moviegoers of either gender) could coerce their girlfriends and wives to see "Bad Boys II."

 
 
"Bad Boys II"

RATING: R for strong violence and action, pervasive language, sexuality and drug content.
STARRING: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence
DIRECTOR: Michael Bay

   
 

It's a boy's or, given its deserved R rating, men's movie in which Smith drives a smoke-gray 575 Maranello Ferrari, in which Dan Marino has a cameo, in which the naked corpses in a mortuary include a buxom young woman shown not once but several times and in which there are enough explosives to satisfy the most perverse pyromaniac. More cars gave their lives, or perhaps just their transmissions and tire treads, in the service of this movie than I could possibly count.

"Bad Boys II" reunites the key team from 1995's "Bad Boys": director Michael Bay and Smith and Martin Lawrence, who play Miami narcotics detectives. Back then, Bay was making his directorial debut, Smith had yet to become a summer sensation with such movies as "Independence Day" and "Men in Black," and Lawrence's invasion of "Big Momma's House" was still to come.

Now, the salaries, stakes and stunts are much bigger as Smith returns as cop Mike Lowrey, a wealthy, well-dressed bachelor, and Lawrence reprises his role as Marcus Burnett, husband and father of three. It turns out Marcus has a younger sister, Syd (Gabrielle Union), who tells her family she's a paper pusher for the Drug Enforcement Agency but is actually undercover in money laundering.

When Syd's work brings her to Miami, her world collides with that of Mike and Marcus as they all set their sights on a Cuban drug lord, Johnny Tapia (Jordi Molla). He's aiming to be the biggest distributor of Ecstasy in America and is ruthless with everyone but his pampered daughter and elderly mother.

The various friendships in the Lowrey-Burnett triangle are tested, as Mike and Syd try to conceal their attraction, as Marcus accuses Mike of putting him at unnecessary risk and of "suppressing his spiritual growth," and as Marcus refuses to view Syd as a fellow law enforcement agent.

The story binds together a series of over-the-top stunts and artistically composed shots of, especially, Smith. Minutes into the movie, he strips off his KKK white robe disguise and emerges with guns ablazing, his body posed against a burning cross in the background. Bay, whose credits include "Pearl Harbor," "Armageddon" and "The Rock," has a fondness for slow-motion shots, the better to see those bullets flying through the air and into someone's flesh.

Comic relief is provided, in part, by police Capt. Howard (Joe Pantoliano) who has little tricks to try to control his anger when the cops turn up on TV in a chase on the MacArthur Causeway that crashes a couple of dozen cars and one boat. In addition to Pantoliano, the supporting cast also includes Peter Stormare as a Russian mobster and Theresa Randle as Marcus' wife.

"Bad Boys II," with a soundtrack studded with chart-toppers such as Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Notorious B.I.G. and 50 Cent, is nearly 2 hours and 30 minutes long. It's more action than comedy, which is too bad given the presence of Smith and Lawrence, although a scene in which a key character unknowingly ingests Ecstasy tablets is played a little too much for laughs. Everyone in this universe operates outside of normal police procedure; in real life, these guys would be suspended, shackled to desk duty or thrown in front of a review board.

The sequel is aggressive in its effort to be bigger and badder, so to speak, than the first one, which was pretty flashy, fast, music-soaked and all about style, not substance. This time around, Union is given a smarter female lead to play and Smith and Lawrence are as comfortable as "MIB" Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, but the sheer testosterone-driven excess of it all makes it seem like extreme moviemaking.

Why, for instance, simply have corpses bounce onto the street when you could run over one and see its head pop off? It serves violence in oversize portions, making it seem gluttonous on both sides of the screen.


Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.

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