For the second time in as many weeks, I have watched a sequel without having endured the previous installment. Needless to say, there is no need for context and continuity where there is no character or storyline, so I took the “II” as nothing more than a friendly reminder that, despite all evidence to the contrary, I was indeed watching something separate and distinct from the first film. Of this I cannot be certain, but outside of a credible threat to my life or substantial financial compensation, I will not be viewing the original Bad Boys. Not even for Jonny. So what did I think? Was it is bad as I expected? Oh my yes. And while I have plenty to criticize about the mindless action, clichéd dialogue, boring villains, and overabundance of fire and screeching metal, my main issue is with the running time. At nearly 2 1/2 hours (only a few minutes shy, thank you very much), my ass was as sore as it’s ever been (uh, not like it would ever have a reason to be sore) and my mind nearly cleared of all memory regarding truth, beauty, and joy. There were at least 30-35 scenes that could have been cut without affecting the overall film, and the half-dozen car chases could have each been trimmed by 5-6 minutes to save my sanity and the sanity of all those who might want a summer thrill, but insist that the running time be kept in line with the ideas on the screen. If you are tackling the Civil War or some historical epic, perhaps it is necessary to develop characters and let the audience come to understand the complex issues taking place. When we have nothing but a recycled story about drug dealers, big guns, and crashing vehicles, get in, take 90 minutes to appeal to our base instincts, and get the fuck out. But with Bruckheimer and Bay at the helm, nothing is ever that easy. I’m more convinced than ever that they want to reduce all their fans to a bored stupor, proceed with mind control, and eventually take over the world. Ah yes, mission accomplished.

As the film got underway (it begins in Amsterdam and quickly cuts to Miami and the Gulf of Mexico) and I began to realize that it would be a tired film about a megalomaniacal Cuban drug dealer and the FBI agents et al who want to bring him down, a brilliant thought struck me cold — people like Bruckheimer and Bay are at the center of the opposition to drug legalization. If suddenly the criminal element were taken out of narcotics, B&B would be left with little to do as 99% of their script ideas would fade away in an instant. With the Cold War long over and it still being politically incorrect to demonize Arabs, Master Bruckheimer needs renegade cops and slimy drug kingpins to make him millions of dollars. Everybody hates those bastards, right? Why, this guy (a character named Johnny Tapia) is smuggling in $100 million worth of dangerous ecstasy (established as dangerous by a scene in a nightclub where a poor sap flops around and dies after a bad reaction) and all good soccer moms can be against that! It is a sign of the script’s poverty that we get a huge compound in Cuba (where the a massive shootout takes place near the end of the film), dozens of lackeys who call the kingpin “boss,” and a damsel in distress, who just happens to be a sister of one of the main characters. It continues to amaze me how the same screenplay circulates through Hollywood, continues to be made with just a few minor changes, and every year people line up as if they are seeing it for the first time. “Yes,” they cry in their sheep-like unison, “but I hear there will be even more explosions!” Checkmate.

Again, I have no frame of reference from the first film, but this time around Mike (Will Smith) and Marcus (Martin Lawrence) are two bad-ass Miami cops who bicker like an old married couple, cause millions of dollars in damage, piss off their superior officers, yet manage to get the job done. They work for the Technical Narcotics Team (TNT, if you’re having trouble) and have teamed up with the FBI and DEA to stop the import of all this bad stuff that threatens Christendom and our plucky, apple-cheeked children (it is telling that all of the ecstasy users in the club scene are white). At first the terrible twosome are having trouble figuring out how the drugs are brought in, but they soon make a connection to the kingpin’s other business, a Miami funeral home. You see, bodies are shipped to the morgue, hollowed out, and stuffed with bags of ecstasy. Other bodies (in their caskets) are filled with money and shipped down to Cuba. It’s brilliant, I tell you! The corpses come in handy when, during I believe the third car chase sequence, dead bodies spill out all over the road and are crunched beneath the squealing tires. This scene, as well as the others (although perhaps there is little else besides such scenes), point out something obvious, but always annoying about buddy-cop movies. While they are driving at 100 MPH, dodging wreckage, and smashing through walls, I hear little but “Oh it’s on now!” or “You wanna play like that?” or “Motherfucker!” or “Holy shit, that was close!” or whatever. Sometimes I wonder if a screenwriter might ever be inclined to put a few phrases or words into a character’s mouth that throws us for a loop. Can’t we be surprised, even for a second, while fireballs consume the screen? Are one-liners really all we are capable of as we face the final curtain?

Another forehead-slapping moment occurs right after Marcus’s sister is kidnapped by the kingpin. After getting a threatening phone call from Tapia, Marcus glares and states, “Shit just got real.” Let me get this straight. Up until that moment we had watched at least 100 people die violently, millions of dollars in property be destroyed, lives ruined and others scarred, and billions go down the toilet fighting a ridiculous drug war, and only now that your sister has been kidnapped is all this “real?” Was the mayhem and nearly two hours of grotesque savagery just for fun? I guess this moment was supposed to be when Marcus got his shit together after bitching throughout the movie about quitting or seeking a transfer. Marcus has been seeing a therapist and is using meditation to deal with the stress of policework. Once his sister is in danger, however, he throws it all to the side and takes care of his own. And he’s also pissed because his sister is now dating Mike, whom he believes to be a reckless player. While those conversations and heated words take place amidst gunfire and chases, they still bring the film down even further into the abyss. It’s all a giant bore and nothing more filler between killings as there might be some rule that filmmakers cannot submit dialogue-free scripts. Something about the Writer’s Guild or something.

And being a Michael Bay effort, the camera swoops endlessly, the rapid cutting sweeps along like a fever, and the pace breezes by without a moment’s pause. So why was I bored? I heard laughing from the audience and from all appearances, the rabble were entertained. But why were they entertained? Do they really like watching the same film, only with different titles? You might hear them say “Man, that was better than the first one,” but how could they tell? What criteria would they use? If something blows up in Miami, is it really that different than something that blows up in Los Angeles? In the end, both kill a hell of a lot of Latinos. In the end, the kingpin is shot through the head and for good measure, explodes on a landmine. I guess it’s kinda cool to watch a man’s limbs splatter in the air and leave only a writhing torso, but then again I have other things to turn to — books, foreign cinema, good conversation. That torso is all most people have, and I’m sure it will be the lead topic at buffet-style dinners throughout lower class America. Or they might bring up that one scene where the action was slowed down and we watched a bullet travel from Mike’s gun, through Marcus’s butt cheek, and directly into a bad guy’s neck. “Awesome,” they’ll say. “Anybody want some more roast beef?”

Special Ruthless Ratings

  • Number of scenes set at a backwater Klan gathering: 1
  • Number of times you knew this was done solely to allow Smith and Lawrence to make racial jokes: 9
  • Number of scenes featuring ex-NBA player John Salley as a goofy scientist who wears coke-bottle glasses: 2
  • Number of times you shrugged as you realized that time after time in American cinema, an intellectual black man is a nerd who acts white: 7
  • Number of times you were shocked that this was a Bruckheimer film without any sex: 11
  • Number of times you were also shocked that this was a Bruckheimer film without any brains: 0