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BAD BOYS II

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Jordi Molla, Gabrielle Union, Theresa Randle, Joe Pantoliano
Director: Michael Bay
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 147 Minutes
Release Date: December 9, 2003

"You see that?!"

"THEY THROWIN' CARS! HOW'D I NOT SEE THAT?!"

Film ****

It's always hard to come across a sequel to a good movie that even begins to peak a hint of quality over its predecessor. Such examples of the virtually impossible from my perspective are Blade II, Superman II, The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2) and of course, The Empire Strikes Back, for starters. With 2003 being one of the biggest years for sequels in quite sometime, only a couple of releases, such as X2 and The Matrix Reloaded managed to amount to anything worth remembering. However, the one that blew the competition away, not just for sequels but for action movies in general, is the ultra-explosive Bad Boys II, which has earned a place on that prestigious list of great second installments.

When the first Bad Boys came out in 1995, it wasn't expected to do as impressively well as it did. As it turns out, both the studio and mega-producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer didn't seem to have much faith in the movie. It managed to have a budget of only $20 million, in addition to being directed by a then-first timer named Michael Bay. But with Bay's extraordinary photogenic vision, along with the power charisma of stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, the movie went beyond everyone's expectations.

Since then, Bay, Smith and Lawrence each went on to much bigger projects, so it seemed like no less than a miracle if there was to ever be a sequel. Eight long years later, a miracle proved to exist. Reuniting with producer Bruckheimer, director Bay and the two leads were able to make Bad Boys II explode onto screens. Despite some unfairly harsh reviews from critics, it was a huge hit with the public, just as the first one was. Although the movie does represent the buddy cop formula, it dazzles the screen with elaborate action sequences unlike anything ever conceived.

Smith and Lawrence are back in full action comedy mode as Miami cops Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett. This time around, the two have upgraded their status as leaders of an elite task force called Tactical Narcotics Team, or TNT. Miami has seen a huge increase of ecstasy pills being imported and distributed. Notorious Cuban drug lord Johnny Tapia (Jordi Molla) has been masterminding the flow of X, which he has shipped to Miami through smuggling the pills inside human corpses. Tapia happens to double as the proprietor of a mortuary, which provides the easy smuggling opportunity.

Complicating matters is the involvement of Marcus' sister, Syd (Gabrielle Union), a DEA agent from New York who has gotten involved way over her head in an elaborate federal sting operation designed to nail Tapia. Not only does it make it difficult for them professional wise, but matters also get personal when Marcus discovers that Mike has been seeing Syd for a matter of months. It doesn't sit well with Marcus, who's been Mike's best friend all his life but knows all too well about his rep as a playboy.

I honestly didn't think I would ever see any action scenes which could rival the stunning freeway chase of The Matrix Reloaded, and what's even more surprising to note is that Bad Boys II doesn't feature a standout action sequence…all of them are standouts and masterfully choreographed through Bay's specific vision. Bay made a clear choice to include as little CGI as possible, if none at all, which is the main reason the action is so darn effective. Case in point, a heart-pounding, breath-gasping freeway chase early in the movie. Lowery and Burnett, in the confines of silver Ferarri, are pursuing a gang of Hatians who are connected to an ecstasy deal. The Hatians have taken control of a car-carrier truck. After letting off endless round of ammo, the thugs decide to take their pursuers out by dumping the cars onto the freeway. The end result is an intense game of automobile dodge ball, and pure experience of the senses. The cars land, flip and destroy oncoming traffic at rampant speed.

Another stunning scene comes during a shootout at the residence of the very same gang. Now you may wonder, how can a simple shootout be so exciting? Well, Bay found a way to do it, by creating a set piece that could allow a multiple 360 degree angle shot, which shows action in both areas of shooting between the cops and the gang members. It shows what Michael Bay is and always has been capable of, which is elevating standard action to a whole new level.

And it doesn't stop there. There's a grand finale in store, as the cops cross over to Cuba to take down Tapia, who has taken Syd as a hostage in exchange for drug profit. I don't want to give any hints about the climax, except to say that rarely have I had the feeling of being in the middle of a war zone while watching a movie. And is if what happens there isn't enough, a climatic Hummer chase, which leads up to standoff on a land mine field ought to trigger a jolt in you.

I haven't even begun to mention that the movie is also downright HILARIOUS! Like its predecessor, Bad Boys II finds endless spots for some outrageous moments. Such as the case when Mike and Marcus try to view a videotape of potential evidence in an audio/video store, which is then followed by a scene where Marcus confesses to Mike a certain kind of pain he's experiencing (a scene that you may have to rewind to see again to catch the words you missed from laughing so hard).

More hilarity in sues, when the two decide to punk a boy who has come to take Marcus' daughter out on a first date. This scene got hammered in just about every negative review for being too offensive, but I for one found it to be a howler of a moment, and was not offended at all (maybe its just me). And lastly, there's a scene late in the movie where Marcus accidentally swallows a pair of ecstasy pills, which again, I'll leave for you to discover.

As far as action movies in 2003 go, there's no competition; Bad Boys II is the top winner.

Video ****

Bad Boys II is simply one of those movies that has pure DVD potential written all over it, in terms of picture and sound quality. And make no mistake about it, Columbia Tri Star has created the ultimate DVD experience of the year. The anamorphic offering is the epitome of a top of the line flawless transfer, soaring in every possible aspect. You couldn't ask for a crisper and clearer picture, which ranks with some of the best looking discs of all time. The colors are most astounding, helping to make Miami hotter than ever. A sure fire candidate for top video quality of the year.

Audio ****

I have officially selected my top choice for best sound performance of the year. Right from the opening logos, the 5.1 mix on the disc may be as close as I'll ever get to a DTS performance. Not only does the action sound incredible, and I stress the word incredible, but every aspect of audio quality in this presentation is nothing short of masterful. A big factor is Trevor Rabin's knockout score is delivered in a pulse-pounding mode, which accompanies the action strongly. Dialogue and settings also provide wonderful amounts of clarity. CTS has delivered one power-packed transfer of both audio and picture, which is likely to topple the competition by year's end.

Features ***1/2

Even with the disadvantage of not including a commentary track, Columbia Tri Star's 2 disc offering does manage to contain quite an arsenal of feats.

Disc 1 includes the movie, and a trailer gallery.

Disc 2 includes two individual featurettes, one on stunts and the other on visual effects. Also included are production diary vignettes which cover just about every aspect of shooting the movie. Also featured are seven deleted scenes, sequence breakdowns, and a music video for Jay-Z's "La La La". As light as the features may sound, this actually offers one of the more in-depth looks at moviemaking that you're likely to find on any disc of recent memory, which gives this disc a boost of extra credit.

Summary:

I can't put it any other way; Bad Boys II is the ultimate action movie package. I admire the fact that Michael Bay decided to make a two and a half hour roller coaster, with an unapologetic level of violence and racy humor. The result is both the best action movie and perhaps THE most outstanding DVD experience of the year.