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Bad Boys II Directed by Michael Bay Written by Ron Shelton and Jerry Stahl Starring Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Gabrielle Union Classification: 18A Rating: *1/2

Let's begin with the obvious and leave the disturbing news for later.

Bad Boys II

, wherein Will Smith and Martin Lawrence re-dance their buddy cop routine, is a B-movie in the most literal sense: You got your Bad, you got your Boys, you got your Bullets, you got your Banter. And that's the entire picture, the long and the short of it. Actually, just the long. For reasons known only to those other killer B's -- Bay and Bruckheimer (director Michael and producer Jerry) -- this paltry action-comedy weighs in at an obese 2 hours. Perhaps these two got their sequels confused (easy to do these days) and thought they were re-teaming to crank out

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T
he Rockier

or

Pearl Harbor Redux

or

Armageddon Again

.

Naturally, we start with the action. Nighttime, Miami, a shipload of ecstasy is about to invade America's pristine shores. Seeking to intercept it, the buddy bad boys are suddenly surrounded by a bunch of Klansmen with their white sheets and burning crosses. Why? Dunno, except that our heroes are black and maybe Bay figures that a whiff of KKK is good for atmospherics. More predictably, explosions soon ensue. The first of many things gets blown up real good, prompting Smith to make like a critic and pronounce five little words that capture the essence of both the picture and the summer it's stuck in. Says he with a sigh: "Some old shit, different day".

Pause to introduce the love-interest (Gabrielle Union), then it's on to a car chase that, in keeping with the inflated spirit of the occasion, must last at least 15 minutes. It culminates on a bridge where a giant truck, the kind used to transport new cars, spews its vehicular contents all over the tarmac -- a driverless rush hour. Devastation finished, enter another B -- the bad boys' boss -- to yell at them for the trifle of littering the city with jagged metal and burnt bodies. Undaunted, they quickly proceed to the next noisy chase, which prompts more bossy yelling, and, well, you may be detecting a pattern. In the midst of the clamour, about the only quiet sight is the view of the bullets -- they get filmed lyrically in super slow-motion, as befits the real stars of the show.

But what of the banter, the promised comedy, you might well ask? Very good question. Smith and Lawrence enjoyed some amusing chemistry in the '95 original, but their molecules sure aren't jibing here. It's a full hour into this behemoth before there's anything resembling a belly laugh. Instead, the script (co-written by a slumming Ron Shelton) seems to be looking for the sort of gross-out yuks favoured by those other bad boys -- the Farrelly brothers. For example, at one stomach-churning point, our lads are in a morgue rummaging through the chest cavities of corpses -- they know that's where the money is stashed. Funny it ain't, but as a symbol of the creative act in Hollywood -- relentlessly plundering the dead past for its stored profits -- you could do a lot worse.

After two long hours of this, we still aren't in sight of the climax. But then comes the disturbing bit, when matters get perversely interesting. The tale's primo villain and chief dope dealer (Jordi Mollà) just happens to be a greasy-haired Cuban who, as the net tightens, hightails it back to his lavish hacienda outside Havana. So, in the good name of the war on drugs and a nation's psychic security, the bad boys team up with a small army of commandos to launch their own private invasion of Cuba -- yep, a Bay of Pigs with a happier ending. Under the rallying cry of "That's okay, we're Americans!", the invaders obliterate the dealer's compound, cut a destructive swath through a shantytown full of indigent peasants, and then, chased by Fidel's own soldiers, race towards sanctuary in that bastion of freedom known as -- you guessed it -- Guantanamo Bay.

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Good grief. From out of the rotten core of this faux blockbuster, there crawls a subtext that's positively Rumsfeldian. Then again, perhaps the cages of Guantanamo Bay are the ideal resting place, a fitting corral, for the Bays and the Bruckheimers and the other bombastic combatants of the cinematic wars. After all, these bad boys are in the manufacturing business, and what they turn out is an explosive cultural product whose definition depends on your political and aesthetic perspective. In some eyes, this is a movie; in others, it's a weapon of mass destruction.

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