Michael Bay is a gifted man, one of the few directors blessed with the ability to make an action movie that looks great, plays fast and is neither lacking in nor top-heavy with style. And it's a good gift, despite what the scatterbrained film snobs might think. It works, and works well, unless, of course, it's being blended with historical drama, as in the rather abysmal case of Pearl Harbor. Tragedy, after all, is rarely receptive to spectacle.

But with the re-teaming of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as Bad Boys for the new millennium, Michael Bay once again proves himself the master of the straightforward action film. There aren't a whole lot of twists and turns here, or terribly clever plot devices, either. Simply put, Bad Boys II is a straight line of an action movie, barreling ahead from the high-octane opening to the explosive final moments. The drug-smuggling plot is ever only there to provide some structure to the chaos, allowing Lawrence and Smith ample opportunities to be both wildly humorous and massively destructive. Strangely, however, for a film so steeped in 2000-style, we haven't seen a flick like this for decades.

This is a 1980's action film, full of excess everything - language, violence, drugs, guns, women. The buddy-cop aspect is as note-perfect as it was when Lethal Weapon first hit screens, and the action sequences are as horribly violent and hugely entertaining as we've seen in a film for years. The freeway sequence alone puts The Matrix in the corner, and the final half-hour is relentlessly is kinetic. The only valid criticism here would be to say that the film is slightly too long. With a run-time of two and a half hours, it's difficult to make a movie that doesn't either drag or fail to top itself, and while nearly every stunt is dwarfed by the one following it, the film still feels a bit long in the latter half.Thankfully, however, this film is as much of a comeback for uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer as it is for Michael Bay. With Bad Boys II and last week's Pirates of the Caribbean, Bruckheimer is beginning to illustrate that he once again owns the very definition of entertainment, producing films that are as much about popcorn-fun as they are about artistry (respective to their genre, of course).

Gone is the passive, unexciting fare like Con-Air and Swordfish, or the point-and-shoot mediocrity of what has come to pass as action. After all, just because someone shoots off an Uzi doesn't mean it's exciting. Instead, Bad Boys 2 reignites the flame of perfectly balanced style, pushing the Hard-R rating to its glorious limits, while building beat upon beat of hyper-intensive action. And with Bruckheimer and Bay both back to form, one only wonders what the future of action might hold.

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