The month of May is one of my favorite times of year. It is like an extended weekend: a month of rest and recovery. A small window of a break where I can enjoy a few lazy days and have time to do the things I enjoy without fitting them in between stressful deadlines. (Because, sadly, I’m not traveling to the French seaside for Cannes – unlike Will Smith.)
After completing a festival, I spend this month watching films or TV shows that I consider to be “guilty pleasures”. Movies I can watch and not think about. Sometimes it’s a film I’ve seen more than a dozen times, other times a big blockbuster. A film that isn’t necessarily a critical darling, but that washes over me and cleanses my palate. This month, I’m going to focus my blog on some of these favorite guilty pleasures.
Today, I’m starting this series with an all time favorite guilty pleasure: Bad Boys II (2003).
First, let me be clear: Michael Bay is an auteur. He is a one-of-a-kind filmmaker, that much is true. Whether or not you like his work is a different matter. Bay has had plenty of misses (Pearl Harbor) amongst the hits (Bad Boys, Pain & Gain). I’ve lost track of how many Transformer movies exist now and can not argue for more. I’m not a diehard Bay fan (like my colleague, James Faust, is), but I appreciate the work for what it is and for the most part enjoy the insanity he brings to the screen. If you haven’t yet seen Tony Zhou’s great video essay on Michael Bay’s style, Bayhem, take a few minutes to watch it below.
Ok, back to Bad Boys II. For those unfamiliar with the plot: Marcus (Martin Lawrence) and Mike (Will Smith) are a pair of Miami narcotic detectives investigating a Cuban drug kingpin’s connection to an influx of Ecstasy into Florida.
I’ve seen this sequel many times more than the first film. Both films are great, but the sheer epic-ness of this sequel is what brings me back. The opening sequence includes some of Bay’s most classic (and ridiculous) shots: the helicopter over the Miami sign, the lighting of a KKK cross against the final credit and of course, let’s not forget, the camera moving through the dance floor and under-a-woman’s-skirt in the club.
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s comedy chemistry makes this film pop. Also, Michael Shannon! I always forget he is in this movie until the credits begin.
What makes this a guilty pleasure for me is watching the car chases, of which there are several. Two are my all time favorite: the final climatic scene where Marcus and Mike drive a yellow Hummer through a slum, with debris and explosions everywhere. The number of shots and the setup involved in this one take is incredible (look to the special features for more). But even more than that climatic scene, I most enjoy Bad Boy II‘s first car chase: where Syd’s (Gabrielle Union) drug/money drop off goes array. Marcus and Mike follow in Mike’s Ferrari (not a plausible concept for a cop to own that car even if he has a trust fund, but again…not thinking when watching) as a group of Haitian drug thugs chase after Syd. As the chase progresses, the Haitians take over a big rig hauling cars, dropping one at a time in front of the Ferrari before ultimately dropping a speedboat into the detective’s path. A BOAT. While plenty of CGI was used, the absurdity and complexity of this chase makes me smile and drop by jaw every time I watch it. If your heart doesn’t start beating faster during this action, I’m not sure what will.
After watching months and months of documentaries about human rights and narratives with subtle drama, Bad Boys II is a long, funny and absurd reset button on my world. It is a film that feels both bad for my health and totally satisfying. I like to pair it with potato chips – barbecue flavored to be exact. I don’t allow myself to buy chips because they are another guilty pleasure. I’ll sit an eat a whole bag if it’s open in front of me, which makes it the perfect snack to eat with Bad Boys II.
What are some of your guilty pleasures? Are you a Michael Bay hater, fan or apologist? What’s your favorite scene in Bad Boys II? Let me know in the comments!