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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Bad Boys II
Bad Boys II
Columbia/Tri-Star // R // December 9, 2003
List Price: $28.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted November 7, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movies

It's not easy being a Michael Bay fan. In contemporary society you could be a disabled, lesbian, African-American Jew who smokes, and still you wouldn't be as discriminated against as much as someone who positively adores Armageddon. Even now as you read these words, there is a sizable cadre of DVD Talk visitors who have sworn a solemn candlelight oath to never take any of my reviews seriously again. My filmographical "street cred" has been blown apart like the long-lamented "Ketchup is a vegetable" assertion of the mid-1980s.

But bearing in mind that one must always keep to the courage of their convictions, I stand by my enjoyment of Michael Bay films -- for the most part, anyhow. I'll be the first to admit that, save for that technically impressive battle sequence in the middle of the film, most of Pearl Harbor was as compelling as a risk-management seminar and as skillfully nuanced as a sledgehammer to the face. A bad movie for sure, but certainly a watchable bad movie. Yet I find Armageddon and The Rock to be two of the most enjoyable summer popcorn films produced over the past decade. The latter benefited by successfully balancing the charismatic presences of Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage, and Ed Harris with plentiful, skillfully constructed action scenes and some genuinely funny situations and dialogue. The former film - one of the most despised films on the Internet - is so eager to entertain and overwhelm with bombast, spectacle, and blatant melodramatic pandering that this reviewer can overlook many of the films rather blatant flaws.

As it stands, most Michael Bay films are like lightning rods for seething, venomous criticism from critics across the board. And yet, people seem to like them. A lot. Based on domestic box office returns alone, Bay's five films have grossed a staggering $730 million. Like Hyman Roth, Michael Bay has always made money for his partners... even the much-maligned Pearl Harbor made some moderate coin for Disney. Say whatever you will about his movies, but you can't say that people don't go see them.

All of which brings us to Bad Boys II, a loud, uneven, overlong, wobbly-paced and sporadically entertaining film that won't win Michael Bay any converts from his various detractors.

The original Bad Boys film was a medium-budgeted $19 million action-comedy hybrid which, back in 1995, was notable for featuring the participation of Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, and Michael Bay long before any of the trio were considered viable box-office talent. Smith and Lawrence were primarily television sitcom stars, and Bay had come off of a string of several successful music videos but had not proven his talent behind a major motion picture. I wasn't a major fan of Bad Boys; it suffered from an anemic plot, forced and contrived "comedy" bits that were mostly unfunny, and some uneven pacing issues. Yet Bad Boys won some points for some exciting action sequences and fine chemistry between the two leads, as well as a powerhouse of a climactic action sequence that really announced Bay as a stylish filmmaker.

Bad Boys II picks up the pace eight years after the original, and everything here is bigger, louder, and more spectacular than the first film. The comedy is raunchier and decisively more revolting this time around; as soon as There's Something About Mary made it safe for filmmakers to "push the boundary" of what is considered "acceptable humor", directors jumped at the chance to showcase whatever gross-out humor they could get their hands on in their films. Bad Boys II is no different: an entire subplot that deals with a gaggle of cadavers wants to come across as risqué, but winds up being mostly revolting. Using a hot naked girl for exploitation is one thing; using a hot naked dead girl for comedy is just plain filthy.

The action is definitely amped up in the sequel. Armed with a $130 million budget (a third of which no doubt went to secure the talents of Bay, Lawrence, and Smith), the filmmakers went out to make a louder, more explosive and action-oriented movie, and in this regard they succeeded. The film opens and closes with large-scale action scenes, with many smaller ones scattered throughout the movie, but the showstopper has to be a pretty thrilling car chase sequence midway through the film...

(And as an aside, this intrepid reviewer was late to work for a good week thanks to the production of Bad Boys II shutting down the primary bridge highway that separates Miami from Miami Beach. In no way should any portion of this review be considered payback. Not yet, anyhow.)

...And without a doubt, both Smith and Lawrence were able to successfully convey the camaraderie and on-screen chemistry that they exhibited in the original film. Both are charismatic leads, and they come across very convincingly during the movie. But gross-out humor, appealing leads, and exciting action sequences aside, Bad Boys II simply suffers from the same flaws as the original, only on a larger scale. The plot, which mostly deals with stereotypical ethnic caricatures smuggling and distributing Ecstasy while Will Smith tries to hide his affair with Gabrielle Union from big-brother Martin Lawrence, is just an afterthought. Full of holes and some blatant lapses in logic, the storyline of this movie is pretty weak. The film is bloated and, with a whopping 147 minute running time, is in dire need of some judicious editing (the original clocked in at only 118 minutes, and still felt overlong.) The film earns some notice for being a "Hard R"-rated film instead of a watered-down, PG-13, "hey the kids can see it!" compromise, but all the blood-soaked violence, curvaceous flesh, gratuitous nudity, excessive use of the F-word, and bone-crushing action cannot hide the fact that Bad Boys II is a mess of a movie which still manages to viscerally thrill and occasionally entertain from underneath a mountain of serious flaws.

The DVD

Video:

Say what you want about his films, but Michael Bay and his directors of photography know how to make a movie look glossy, exciting, and larger than life. The luscious cinematography of his films begs for crystal-clear, widescreen-viewing enjoyment, and, for the most part, the video presentation of Bad Boys II delivers a routinely impressive picture. The movie is featured in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1, and has been anamorphically enhanced for your widescreen-viewing euphoria. The picture looks remarkably crisp and detailed, resulting in an image that sports both magnificent resolution but a noticeable amount of visible edge-enhancement and telltale haloing. Color levels are brilliant and lush, reproducing a vibrant spectrum throughout the movie. Black levels are extremely deep and smooth with fine levels of shadow delineation that, combined with spot-on contrast levels, renders the image a stronger and more satisfying presentation. Nighttime, twilight, and low-lit scenes look especially impressive. I noticed no compression noise, pixelation, or other artifacting throughout the film. Overall, this is a very strong presentation of a visually impressive film.

Audio:

Absolutely stellar. From frame one through the closing crawl, Bad Boys II envelops the listener in such an engaging and immersive audio experience that you'll find the act of listening to the film is much more enriching than paying attention to such useless things as plot, scene, characterization, etc.. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (a French 5.1 track is also included), and is pretty close to reference quality. The sound field is extremely spacious, with generous and aggressive directionality that envelops the listener in a fairly wide sonic net. Dialog levels are clear, bright, and punchy without any limiting distortion or harshness. Both surround and LFE activity are extremely pervasive, and the various action scenes take full advantage of this aggressive sound stage. While many other sequences appear distinctly impressive, I was particularly taken by the opening "Swamp Scene" battle. The discrete placement of gunfire, explosions, background noise, and dialog provided for one extremely engaging experience... and that's only the first of many. This is a fantastic audio mix.

Extras:

Disc One features only the movie, with only a handful of Trailers to keep you company. The trailers include Bad Boys, Bad Boys II, Once Upon A Time in Mexico, Radio, S.W.A.T., Spider-Man (Animated), The Missing, and Underworld.

Disc Two contains the clear bulk of supplemental material included in this two-disc set. Seven Deleted Scenes are included on this DVD: "Group Therapy", "Mike and Mara", "Arriving at the Haitians' House", "First Scene at Phat's", "Talking About Mama's House", "Hit On Dog", and "Fake Funeral". Collectively, they run about seven minutes in length. Most of them are extensions or alternates of existing scenes, and don't really add too much to the film. In other words, it's easy to see why they were left on the cutting-room floor.

The Featurettes section is broken down into two subsections. "Stunts" is a nine-and-a-half-minute look at the various stunt work performed throughout the movie. Director Michael Bay, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and various other crew members offer their perspectives on three stunt sequences: the car-chase scene, the "shanty-town plummet chase" scene, and the "blowing up the mansion" scene. These were three of the most physically impressive action sequences in the film, and the featurette provides a brief but interesting look at their production.

The second featurette deals with "Visual Effects." Running over eighteen minutes, the documentary focuses on many of the visual effects that were utilized in the creation of the film, including the many elements that need to be rendered in order to create a convincing composite scene. I found this featurette to be extremely enjoyable, and I was rather impressed by the fact that the "bridge chase scene", which was filmed during a week of rainy August weather in Miami (at which time one reviewer was stuck in his car), seems to feature extraordinarily sunny weather in the final print. Take a bow, guys!

Music Video contains the four-minute video for "La-La-La" by Jay-Z... not really my type of music, but as always your mileage may vary. If it's of any interest to you at all, the audio is edited to blank out the "naughty words." This is a curious editorial choice, keeping in mind that the actual movie contains an endless stream of profanity, the likes of which would make Tony Montana blush.

Sequence Breakdowns are perhaps the most impressive of all the special features. Five sequences - "MacArthur Causeway", "Ice Van Chase", "Monorail Fight", "5 Man Ratchet", "Tapia's Mansion", "Shanty Town" - are examined in some fairly extensive detail. Each sequence section includes the actual sequence footage (4:55 total running time), on-set footage (38:42 running time), storyboards (288 total pages), and the actual script excerpt for the scene (36 pages).

Production Diaries are a series of video recollections relating to the production of the film. They are broken down into the following sections: "Genesis" (5:42) is a look at Michael Bay's debut as a director with the original Bad Boys film. "Training Day" (2:18) highlights the actual T.N.T. training the actors underwent before filming any weapons scenes  (as a blatantly sexist aside, Gabrielle Union looks alluring as hell firing automatic weaponry - especially in tight red sweatpants.) "Swamp" (6:11) is a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the "undercover Klan" scene. "Night Club" (2:42) provides more on-set footage of endless curvy young women strutting their goods in a nightclub scene. "Intersection Footage" (7:50), "Get In My Office!" (2:15), "Hugs and Kisses" (3:21), "Poolside" (2:58), "Jordi Molla" (3:09), "First Date" (2:40), "Crime Lab" (1:47), "Captain's House" (2:23), "A Couple of Cameos" (2:25), "Train Dodging" (2:58), "Joey Pants" (1:50), "The Russian Is Coming" (3:28), "Home Invasion" (5:38), "Bringing Down The House" (3:48), and "Shanty Town" (2:58) are basically in the same vein: a time-stamp featuring the dates of filming, behind-the-scenes footage, occasional split-screens featuring raw footage contrasted with the final print, and copious amounts of cast/crew recollections. All of which make for interesting watching, but I really wish they could have utilized a "Play All" option.

And if you're still not satiated, you have the DVD Credits to tide you over!

Final Thoughts

Bad Boys II is far from a critics' film (they pretty much lambasted it upon its release.) Then again, this is hardly a film; it's a movie. Bad Boys II exists as big-budget spectacle and entertainment, but even this admitted Michael Bay fan has problems with it. The film is too little script over too much running time, too violent, and its fallback on "gross-out" humor is strangely offsetting. On the other hand, the action scenes are pretty gosh darn swell, and I enjoyed watching Will Smith and Martin Lawrence together on-screen again. As a film alone, I'd advise Bad Boys II as a rental, unless you were a big fan of the first one, in which Bad Boys II is more of the same on a much larger scale.

However, as a DVD Bad Boys II provides the type of home theater experience that DVDs were made for. The presentation of the movie is simply fabulous, with a strong transfer and a reference-quality audio mix that remained impressive throughout the film's running time. Furthermore, I was extremely impressed by the sheer amount and high quality of the supplemental material on Disc Two. There's over two-and-a-half hours of extra footage, script pages, storyboards, and more. Sure, I would have enjoyed a commentary track by Michael Bay, whose previous commentaries have always been entertaining and informative, but the amount of information included in the various featurettes, footage, and breakdowns would probably have made a commentary track redundant. Overall, Bad Boys II is problematic as a film but thoroughly impressive as a DVD.

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