Who knew the path Ecstasy made from labs in Amsterdam to my giddy stomach was littered with so many bad accents and misplaced priorities? Michael Bay’s latest jingoistic fetish film, Bad Boys II, could be the most vile creation to come out of Hollywood since Patch Adams. According to producer Jerry Bruckheimer, it took seven years to come up with a script everyone liked. So much for high standards. The plot follows bad boy cops Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) as they try to get the goods on a Cuban drug lord who’s smuggling Ecstasy into the United States (and wads of cash into his homeland Cuba) via coffins and corpses. “This shit just got real,” says Burnett after his sister is kidnapped, forgetting the “realness” of the human tragedy he helped orchestrate over the course of this evil film’s unnecessary 147-minute running time.
Bay ludicrously evokes the bacchanalia of a Miami Beach club overrun by club-goers overdosing on the Ecstasy Hector Juan Carlos Tapia (Jordi Molla) ships into the country. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before Bay makes a mockery of the film’s war against the libidinal counter-culture—the same war he goes to such pain-staking lengths to justify. Lawrence is allowed free-range over the production when his character accidentally downs two tabs of Ecstasy. It’s the kind of X-performance built on countless clichés seen (and done better) in a dozen other films (Go and Orange County come immediately to mind), most of them misinformed. The screenwriters have done their research, but only to a certain degree: They know the area outside the U.S. Guantanamo Base in Cuba is brimming with landmines, but they don’t know that Crystal Meth, not Ecstasy, is more likely to give you an erection.
Burnett and Lowrey aren’t undercover brothers, just apolitical ones. They break apart a swampy Ku Klux Klan meeting, but not before busting out of their Grand Wizard outfits. Bad Boys II isn’t so much reprehensible for the way it lazily allows its main characters to fall back on age-old racial jokes (most sound like recyclables from every other film Lawrence has ever made) as much as it makes race itself one big joke. The film’s odious view-askew of America’s drug war is inextricably bound to Bay’s cultural reductivism. In the film’s fantasy Miami (where Lawrence’s Burnett can afford a house on Biscayne Bay but not an in-ground pool), no one race mixes with the other. Even within the segregated ranks of the Miami police department, it’s the Cuban lothario vs. the black brother.
From Miami to Cuba, every location is a mere amusement park for a series of endless shoot-outs and explosions. During a high-speed chase that pits Burnett’s sister Sydney (Gabrielle Union) against a gang of angry Rastafarians, Burnett doesn’t so much as utter one word of concern for his sister. Smith’s Lowrey, though, is allowed to belt out a good dozen humdingers as cars and boats crash and explode around them. Welcome to Bruckheimer’s toy factory, where TNT always trumps human emotion! Not that there isn’t a strange, masochistic allure to some of these sequences (two standouts: a slow-mo shot of a bullet cutting through Lawrence’s ass and Union packing heat), but there’s no joy to Bay’s complete and utter disregard for human life. The well of this juvenile film’s contempt runs deep, and nothing is sacred: women, gays, Santeria, overweight little girls, loyalty to one’s ethnic homeland.How does one even begin to explain the sadistic pleasure the filmmakers take in orchestrating elaborate deaths? The innocent are viciously humiliated and every villain must die a dozen deaths. (What’s the use of having someone die unless they’re decapitated and blown to smithereens soon after?) The boys chase after a funeral hearse carrying carved-out human bodies filled with bags of Ecstasy. As the corpses fall out of the hearse, Burnett and Lowrey dutifully run them over and make quickie jokes when a body gets stuck on their windshield. And when the boys land in Cuba, they gleefully destroy an entire village with their souped-up vehicle. The justification here is that any impoverished foreign village or human cavity that brings innocent American lives that much closer to drugs is worth decapitation.