Bad Boys II | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

I guess we should be happy that in a movie genre dominated by Caucasians, with the occasional minority sidekick, there's at least one salable property where both comic-cop action heroes are black. Still, I have a hard time celebrating the noxious "Bad Boys" franchise, especially when the current installment is basically an elaborate excuse to restage the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Only this time... we win! Miami cops Mike (Will Smith) and Marcus (Martin Lawrence) don't set out to make an international incident; at first they're just trying to bust a nasty old drug ring, a pursuit demanding that they hold shootouts on busy city streets and risk countless lives in an insane car chase. It's OK, though: They have to, all for the sake of Marcus' sister (Gabrielle Union). She's the smart, beautiful, independent woman on saving whose hide the plot turns. Twice.

The film's director is Michael Bay, who made the oafish Armageddon, which along with Bad Boys II and so many others is credited to shlock-peddling producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Like all movies made for children (and by them), Bad Boys II has a villain whose evil is unalloyed, and heroes whose motives go unquestioned; in that sense the film is a lot like U.S. foreign policy. Somehow, these cops never wonder whether it's worth terrorizing half the city to catch a couple cartoon drug peddlers -- all of whom, of course, are Cubans, Russians or Haitians.

How easy does Bay make things for himself? Well, the Boys' first showdown is with a bunch of Ku Kluxers. It's a shootout beneath a flaming cross. Why didn't Bay just take that one extra step and have the bad guys sodomizing bunnies?

The film's attitude toward drugs, meanwhile, would be hilariously disingenuous if it weren't so frighteningly manipulative: Bay exploits both the prurient side of Ecstasy (in a nightclub scene full of gyrating hardbodies) and its comic potential (when Marcus accidentally ingests a couple tabs) -- but also glibly suggests that it's all the dealers' fault when some unfortunate club-goer ODs. Remember, kids: Stay away from drugs!

Smith and Lawrence can be thoroughly winning performers. And every 20 minutes or so here, the script gives them a little number to do, including their comically belligerent interrogation of the teen-age boy who's taking Marcus' daughter on her first date. Invariably, Smith and Lawrence nail these bits. But you feel like it's all just to charm us into forgetting the remaining loutishness, which features the pair making a comedy routine out of cruelly trashing a recalcitrant informant's store.

And so to Cuba, where an unauthorized and hence way cool paramilitary-style invasion is demanded, and where the Boys, so Bad you could just pinch their cheeks, get to detonate a sleazy drug lord's palatial home and flatten some tin shacks while piloting a bright yellow Humvee. When our country's being run by people with the moral sense of adolescent boys, why should the movie industry be any different?

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