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Bad Boys II

What kind of world is it where cops drive Ferraris and live in waterfront properties? A fantasy world, that's what. Together, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay are the antithesis of film realism, and after increasingly squalid output together that started with the okay Pearl Harbor, finally they seem to have hit the note they were after.

Everything about Bad Boys II looked like a massive turkey. The buddy cop action comedy is such a tired premise it feels like it's been around since the silent era. The notoriously discredited Martin Lawrence in equal top billing was starting to look like the kiss of death after stinkers like Pearl Harbor received.

But after almost a decade of high concept pap by all involved, it's easy to forget that the original was actually good fun. In true Hollywood style, they've recaptured the same spirit (both comic and action) and turned the volume way up to 11.

Be warned; if high concept action isn't your idea of a night out, steer well clear. But if you want to enjoy yourself for awhile (a long while - it clocks in at almost three hours), Bad Boys II offers nothing but guilty fun.

Thanks to genuine chemistry between Lawrence and Smith and a gattling gun sense of comic timing and delivery by both, you'll laugh yourself silly at times. And thanks to gritty (if there's such a thing in a slick Hollywood blockbuster) camerawork under Bay's direction, the action sequences strap you into a high-octane thrill ride. Unlike the cartoonish, 'over-CGIed' action effects we've seen lately from the likes of Hulk, the action is appropriately hard; every round is a cannon blast, every vehicular impact bone-wrenching and every gunshot wound bloody. In fact, the action is so extreme that at times it's definitely not a kid's movie - together with the language, the violence is pretty bloodthirsty.

As you'd expect, the plot is a loosely devised roadmap to shift characters between opportunities for the Lawrence/Smith standup routine and the explosive action. The police captain, leading lady, DEA, cops, creepy villain and his henchmen are anchored here and there in the story to drive things along enough to keep you interested in between the gunfights, car chases and quips.

A sleazy Cuban drug dealer is bringing ecstasy into Miami, and quickly cornering the market (requisite Hollywood message, kids; don't do drugs). In the meantime, Marcus (Lawrence) and Mike (Smith) are still sniping and arguing like a married couple, Marcus quickly coming unhinged through the stress of getting repeatedly chased and shot at.

To make matters worse, Mike has fallen for Marcus' sister (Gabrielle Union, who we last saw in Cradle 2 The Grave), and to make matter worse still, she turns out to be a DEA agent closing in on their man. The stage is set for full throttle thrills and spills through a dizzying and creative array of settings, from a freeway bridge to a mortuary.

The letdown is the last thirty minutes, where it suddenly seems like we're watching a military thriller. The glamour and comedy evaporates, Marcus and Mike and a team of volunteers dress up like soldiers and travel to Cuba to rescue the heroine from the villain's clutches. It has a completely tacked on feel the movie could have done without.

Is it Bay's redemption? A longtime graduate of the big, bad, loud school of filmmaking and with the bottomless pit of Jerry Bruckheimer's money behind him, he certainly isn't proving himself an auteur with work like this, but Bad Boys definitely takes high concept cinema to the next level.

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