Chapter Two: Bad Boys II
By Brett Ballard-Beach
September 13, 2012
“We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. Our obligation is to make money.” --Quote attributed to former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, but apparently also beloved by late producer Don Simpson
Statistical interlude: Although Michael Bay and the late Tony Scott are the directors that have made the most films in collaboration with Simpson and/or Jerry Bruckheimer (five and six respectively) and may first come to mind when thinking of a Simpson/Bruckheimer production, the following mélange have helmed as well, over the last 30+ years: Paul Schrader, Garry Marshall, Adrian Lyne, Michael Mann, Simon West, Dominic Cena, Joel Schumacher, David McNally, Boaz Yakin, Antoine Fuqua, Ridley Scott, Jon Turteltaub, Gore Verbinski, P.J. Hogan, Mike Newell, and Rob Marshall.
I don’t remember much from the very first R-rated movie I ever saw in its entirety. The film was 1983’s Blue Thunder, which my parents took me to see in the theater when I was seven. Yet there is a single image that shook me back then and still lingers in me with a sense of palpable unease, like the dream I once had where I was shot point blank in the shoulder. It involves the hero’s sidekick being shot in the back as he attempts to escape from his captors, his hands cuffed behind him. Considering the number of movies I had seen by that point, it surely was not the first death or overt act of violence I had encountered. But the lack of morality of it haunted me. It settled upon me as if to say, “This too happens.” It wasn’t simply “not fair” like Old Yeller’s execution, Bambi’s mother’s death, or those minutes in E.T. when he has kicked the bucket. This was a punch to my still-developing gut.
Flash-forward seven years to the summer of 1990 and the opening weekend of Total Recall. In an almost throwaway moment about halfway through, a hapless college student on holiday (at least I thought him to be because he had a kind of collegiate air about him, knapsack over his shoulder, khaki shorts and dazed vacant stare) winds up as a makeshift human shield on an escalator for a gunfight between Schwarzenegger and his pursuers, totaling at least a dozen gunshots when all is said and done. It’s played for laughs (in the editing and manner of its choreography, and the swiftness with which his bullet-riddled carcass is tossed aside) but it’s still worlds removed from the satirical moment in Robocop when the hapless junior executive is machine-gunned to death after the robot prototype refuses to acknowledge the j.e. dropped his weapon.
By this point, I had seen countless slasher movies and action films with high body counts, but something about this unbilled player who is introduced simply to be cannon fodder stuck a nerve as Blue Thunder had with my younger self. Perhaps it’s simply a sentimental categorization of the “innocent” vs. everyone else. With that in mind, I still take those examples and latter-day ones, like my recent reaction to a 20-year anniversary screening of The Last Boy Scout (see my previous Chapter Two) as positive signs that I hadn’t become completely inured to the impact of viscera. The focus of this week’s column politely takes up that challenge.
How can Bad Boys II best be captured in a pithy pull quote that almost sounds like praise? Here goes: Bad Boys II is a $130 million dollar hit of E. Bad Boys II is the acme of gratuitous sequels of the ‘00s. Bad Boys II is the R-rated “director’s cut” pilot for CSI: Miami merged with the Platinum Dunes re-boot/mix/make of Bad Boys. Bad Boys II knows no bounds, takes no prisoners, offers no apologies, and suffers no bouts of logic, conscience, or formality. For fuck’s sake, its final act involves an armed invasion of Cuba by a consortium of Miami PD and ex-Navy SEALS, abetted by anti-Castro rebels and the action climaxes on a live minefield outside the barbed wire confines of Gitmo Bay. (I could almost be describing lost moments from Harold & Kumar’s second feature.) But, that’s getting ahead of things.