If it weren't for Entertainment Weekly, whole chunks of pop culture would remain but rumors to me. For example: The last multiplayer shooter game I found myself playing introduced me to the pleasures of being repeatedly slaughtered by an 11-year-old with a wicked post-braces smile. Vincent D'Onofrio's supposed to be loopy-cool in some show or another and Jerry Bruckheimer's become a big success at splashy television as well. I finish this week's EW, I feel like I understand the alternate dimension.
Still, sometimes I feel like I should be getting a little bad television under my belt now and again, finding myself forgiving slapdash comedies that the average viewer would be peeved after having tossed $8 or $10 into the campfire for. Despite some modest echoes of Ye Olde Miami Vice in its makeup, Bad Boys II doesn't remind me of television at all. But if anyone wants a colorful illustration of the psychosis of big-budget movies that fully explore the sensibilities of its run-amok auteurs, hooboy, I can't imagine seeing anything nuttier or more nihilist than this in a long time. Some colleagues suggesting going back and catching Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle, which was co-written by two of Bad Boys II's credited screenwriters.
While credits pop past, the opening scenes burn up a couple tens of millions of dollars with slick, familiar super-swooping Bay-style action. Cinematographer Amir Mokri, who once shot delicate films like The Joy Luck Club, now works on Coyote Ugly and this contraption -- the images concluding with Bay's directorial credit under a Klan cross in flames.
With all this pizzazz at his disposal, Bay, still within those opening moments, has to soil himself with a cartoonishly greasy, supposedly Cuban baddie whose first few words on screen include "Fokking beetches." Plot? Two cops (madman Martin Lawrence, cock-of-the-walk Will Smith) bicker in Miami, having committed enough terrorist-style atrocities that it's wonder the movie isn't about secret military tribunals. A Cuban drug lord is exporting Ecstasy in stiffs.
Yes, these are lovely go-boom practical stunts, and like The Matrix: Reloaded and Terminator 3: The Rise of The Machines, big monster machines wreak havoc with neat digital enhancements. (Bad Boys II pulls an old-fashioned C-movie Roger Corman trick -- the vehicles compacted down into kibble are usually along the lines of 15-year-old K-Cars with bad paint jobs.) "Oh, that one puckered up my butthole," Smith purrs when one such twirling hulk spins past his ears.
One car crash leads to another, and soon two hours and 20 minutes of quality air conditioning have passed. There are non-sequiturs galore, and I did laugh a lot -- when I wasn't cringing. There's one scene of nutty vaudeville when the pair pretend to be gangstas to a 15-year-old who wants to date Lawrence's daughter, but much of the rest of Lawrence's presence is by the book. Roll eyes. Act cra-a-azy. Say "motherf--er." Repeat.
Who wants to witness a train wreck? Nobody, and I always hope for the best, even with a nutjob prospect like this. Along with the Charlie's Angels team, the script is credited to Ron Shelton (White Men Can't Jump, Bull Durham) and reformed junkie and Alf writer Jerry Stahl, whose joy in the needle was chronicled in Permanent Midnight, his memoir and eventual movie. (He now writes television for Bruckheimer.) It's almost as perverse as seeing Robert Chinatown Towne's name on the Mission Impossible scripts. While the movie seems to be subverting or lampooning its Maxim-overdrive point-of-view, it quickly turns fetishistic.
First, consider Bay and Mokri's fiber-optic-style Nookie-Cam, first snaking, then striding between thonged stripper butt-cheeks in a wet T-shirt-enriched dance club, or the brand names that tickle like an autistic's mantra through even the most violent and gruesome scenes: Lite, Skyy, Twinings, MGD, Porsche, GMC Yukon, Sony, Panasonic, Double Gulp, Dell, "Bacardi mojitos," Pepsi, Cadillac.
After the shopping spree, let's open up the nastier can of worms: Bad Boys II is particularly obsessed with gay sex, rat sex, necrophilia and exploding body parts. Perhaps the movie should actually be called Body Parts II. It's that disgusting. And that's not a moral quibble at all: It's just peculiar to see so much awful human Moo-and-Oink larding the screen, often slamming wetly into the camera's lens. There's more icky splatter than in a chicken processing plant.
(There's one bravura, post-David Fincher bit of digital wizardry, a bullet's point-of-view gouging someone's ass cheek, with the camera digitally swirling past the character's face, then back toward the bullet, which has its blood-puddling way with a baddie's face.)
Decadent or nihilist? It's the devil's dance. The aftermath of every action set piece is shown to be ankle-deep in debris and spent shells like firecracker casings in an old-fashioned Chinese New Year. The movie readily pranks over the line into high-octane decadence, and once the outright allegations are made that Cuba continues to exist because of drug manufacturing, it can't be called anything but antisocial swill.
When the Bad Boys wind up tip-toeing through a minefield at the front gate of the Guantanamo Naval Base, after an outright lift of Jackie Chan's famous destroy-the-hillside-shantytown climax from Police Story, anything's possible. I thought, maybe, a musical number with orange jump-suited, hand-, waist- and foot-manacled Al Qaeda suspects. Irony's not dead, only quality.