In Amsterdam, an enormous batch of the recreational drug ecstasy has been manufactured, and now all it needs is a buyer. One such candidate is the Cuban gangster Johnny Tapia (Jordi Mollà) who stands to make a multi-million dollar profit on his sale of the material to Miami's clubgoers, and one such club owner is the Russian gangster Alexei (Peter Stormare) who will conduct the transaction, no matter that one of his patrons collapses from the effects of the drug mere moments after he finalises the deal, there's money to be made. But the authorities are on to them, and if they are not aware of Tapia's operation at the moment they soon will be when two cops are on the case: Detective Bennett (Martin Lawrence) and Detective Lowrey (Will Smith).
It's a given that any major blockbusting action movie success will automatically get a sequel, but the makers of Bad Boys, the film that took Michael Bay out of music videos and into action flicks of unusual size, waited the best part of a decade before he decided he wanted to go for the hard R and create a follow up that was as extreme as he could make it. Not necessarily more violent, it had its moments of bad taste but the gore quotient was not at horror movie levels, but certainly more destructive: destruction was the language his characters used, be it blowing shit up, shooting people dead or in the villains' modus operandi, having no qualms about trampling victims underfoot all to generate that profit.
Notably the bad guys were Russian and Cuban, suggesting the filmmakers had never gotten over the Cold War, but there was a lot of that kind of thing about at this era when the news media bogeymen, Islamic terrorists, were just too close to home when depicting evil on the big screen where audiences wanted more escapist fare. Granted, there was a sequence early on with a young Michael Shannon leading a Ku Klux Klan meeting which was played for comedy (since, you know, this was essentially a comedy), though predictably that ended with Bennett and Lowrey shooting up the place with wild abandon, which was essentially their answer to everything; if there was a fast car to drive in the process, so much the better.
Bay by this point was being decried by his critics as the end of cinema, or the end of intelligent cinema at any rate, but this you had to assume was water off a duck's back when his movies made their money back at the box office many times over, suggesting he had his finger on the pulse of what his target wanted to see, and that target was the populist moviegoer: if nothing else, Bad Boys II demonstrated some impressive stunts rather than relying on CGI. Even if you were anti-Bay, you would have to grudgingly admit he was hugely successful, no matter that his work had become a go-to insult for anyone who found anything more challenging than this easy-to-watch material a turn off, which assumed you could not enjoy popcorn fodder and more intelligent stuff in equal measure. When Edgar Wright's hit comedy Hot Fuzz paid tribute to this very effort, there were those who tried to reassess their previous dismissal.
Fair enough, many of them realised the mistake they were making, but there was an energy about Bay's muscular direction that could not be denied. Whether he brought very much else other than his slick way with a visual to the table was a matter of debate, however, as the three big action setpieces here were cribbed from other movies: the sequence where the cars were thrown from a transporter onto a freeway as obstacles for the pursuing cops was lifted and amplified from Clint Eastwood's flop thriller The Rookie, the bagged corpses in the road from The Chase, and the climax through a shanty town was taken from Jackie Chan's masterpiece Police Story, so one had to assume the makers of Bad Boys II were confident that nobody other than the true action nerds would notice they were nicked and the rest of the public would be none the wiser. That said, they did sum up the crass nature of the humour where, for instance Lawrence getting shot in the fundament was the cue for gay jokes in a comedy sequence later on. It went on for ages, Gabrielle Union started out as a capable cop but ended up kidnapped, it wasn't all that funny, but it was so big you may admire its sheer volume. Music by Trevor Rabin.