MAD: Bad Boys II: Good Boys

(2017 Alex Shaw/Watched on MP4)

As with Passengers: The Awoken Cut, this is a version of a movie that I have gone into and re-edited. Unlike Passengers which required one substantial act movement and an adjusted ending this one took a hundred tiny cuts to bring in something presentable.

Because unlike the first film which is a cracking comedy action cop caper, THIS fucking foul mess is a straight up monster. Released eight years after the first film, the tone is completely different. The writing team is different, the editor for damn certain was different, (Christian Wagner, editor of Fast and Furious four through eight for the first, and three different guys for the second, none of them was Wagner) and I’m going to say the Michael Bay who directed it was a different man back then to the fellow he was in 2003 and judging by Transformers 4 still is. Eight years is also a long time for Will Smith to go from being Fresh Prince to Men in Black II and Martin Lawrence had gone through a lot of fat suits in the interim years, playing Big Momma).

I removed 37 minutes from the 2 hours 20 running time on the UK DVD. What I removed was the casual racism blurted out in an attempt to be funny, like some kid who loves Cartman but doesn’t get that he’s not someone to emulate. Really it feels like nonstop racial slurs (although clearly it couldn’t have been) Africans, Cubans, Haitians, all get constantly defined by their ethnicity in an insulting and derogatory fashion. There’s a streak of how embarrassing it would be to be thought a homo by other people. And there’s many minutes of leery, viewpoints with the camera floating past and through women’s crotches which just makes Bay feel like a dirty old man.

More disturbing than that though is the Bad Boys themselves. These men murder people every single day and don’t feel it at all. Quite the opposite, they joke about it. But mirthlessly, not for fun, and it’s not at all amusing to watch. Mike in particular is a cold-blooded serial killer. It’s fucking bone-chilling. And to make everything so much worse, they actually DO sort of reference the fact that the stress of the job is getting to them, Marcus in particular. But the HOW of how they do this is absolutely key. Because in the eyes of Bay and the scriptwriters, therapy is for pussies and turns grown men into dickless wimps who find life HARDER to handle, simply by admitting that they need help. It’s abundantly clear that the best course of action is to murder everyone who stands in your way and then just drink a beer and enjoy the barbecue like a normal person. Yes, this film is obviously only for entertainment, but this mentality sticks to young men… hard.

So I trimmed virtually every instance of ridiculing or even mentioning therapy down to almost nothing, and to balance things out I dialled back the murder. Now the Bad Boys *most definitely* get into shoot-outs and defend themselves and uphold the law, but what they do not do is take bloodthirsty yet detached pleasure in slaughter. Because that is frankly disturbing to me. They also don’t plough through the Cuban barrio, smashing through a dozen houses with children’s clothes hanging on the line. Two words Mike, COLLATERAL DAMAGE, (not the movie, that was rubbish). When cop cars go up in flames as civilian vehicles cascade into metal shards around the heroes, clearly and obviously killing everyone inside, these avatars for your viewer aren’t supposed to go “Woo!” at the fireworks display and carry on driving. Because otherwise you are cultivating an audience full of heartless psychopaths.

I also cut back on Johnny Tapia. We know he’s a murderous bastard, every one of the many many scenes he is in just compound this. It’s wasted film. Interestingly when my cut was viewed, LESS time with him makes him seem more dangerous. All that additional ranting about rats and his crappy house made him pathetic rather than intimidating. Interestingly trimming back the comedy skits with his daughter to just the two cats and an apology from him to her in Cuba alarmingly humanises this terrible man. Not much, but a bit.

The main thing that got trimmed after that was just the general repetition. The car chase in the first act is trimmed down in stages as each one is repeated, so five minutes becomes two and a half without losing that escalation. Far fewer people die and our protagonists don’t shrug as their fellow boys in blue meet fiery ends.

For those looking to better understand the theory of relativity I recommend an experiment in editing a troubling  film like this. It turns out that two minutes of bad comedy can feel like an hour. Gone is the lengthy scene where Marcus talks about what Mike put in his ass (it was a bullet) and how he can’t get an erection any more while everyone in the electronics store watches, open mouthed. There’s a lot less fixation on Marcus’ ass in general, those rats fucking missionary style are gone, Peter Stormare’s lieutenant doesn’t get butchered any more, so there’s no need for him to come back as the pistol packing Russian grim reaper only to get killed having accomplished nothing. The protracted ecstasy trip is gone because it isn’t funny, it’s been done a million times before and better, and once again it accomplishes precisely nothing. Same as the dead lady’s tits. I call stuff that doesn’t really go anywhere like this “a bit of business”. It’s mainly there to play for time, and if you’re not trying to accomplish at least two things with your scenes my policy is either rewrite or remove.

With all of these bits of business adding length but no actual weight, the theatrical cut of this bloated hog goes on for a whole act too long, it feels like if it was in the raw footage it ended up in the edit. On a style note, it seems like Bay has lost that eye for colour he had with the original. Bad Boys had amber orange-skies or midnight blue. It was distinctive and atmospheric. This just looks like a Transformers. Also, even with all the truly objectionable stuff cut it’s still filthy and violent as fuck, the boys are still very Bad, they’re just not eaters of men’s flesh.

Here’s the thing though, this is an action comedy, but it’s not funny. None of us laughed out loud at a single line. And the only one we quoted along with it was “This shit just got real”, because that was in Hot Fuzz. I cleaned this film up to laser focus, and it’s a comedy that cannot elicit a smile. That’s a failure. The first film we were laughing and quoting and bopping along to the whole time. This second film in terms of humour is at best (by which I mean an edit nobody else can see) OK.

Interestingly as a *drama* though, and a thriller, it actually has more chops. With less of the shitty comedy there’s more room for the manifest strain on their relationship and the difficulty that the character of Sydney poses to the future of this. As a result this cut often feels like a more fun version of Michael Mann’s dour Miami Vice film (where Tubbs and Crockett never even really spoke to one another, which was alienating to audiences).  I think this was what they were sort of going for, especially with the new focus on the armed forces and their crime response procedures, but that aim got lost along the way. You have no idea how painful it is watching the naturally funny and charismatic Will Smith fail to land jokes. About as disappointing as watching him spout dianetics about not feeling fear because fear isn’t real. Luckily with Good Boys you don’t have to see that, and can enjoy the lean, lighthearted cop thriller to be found at the core.

Honestly “Good Boys” isn’t really accurate here, they’re alright.

Author: Alex Shaw

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