(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. This week, we take a look at a new follow-up to an early Adam Sandler “gem.)

What are the odds anyone has talked about Bulletproof since its release in 1996? The film was something of a bomb both theatrically and critically – it’s at 8% on Rotten Tomatoes! – and while Adam Sandler went on to bigger and occasionally better things it essentially ended co-lead Damon Wayan’s movie career. Seriously, Wayans only has six film credits following Bulletproof, and they earned a combined total of $4.2 million.

Well, it turns out the answer to my rhetorical question is that no one has thought about Bulletproof until early 2019 when this column’s friends at Universal 1440 Entertainment conceived and produced the elegantly titled sequel, Bulletproof 2. It was birthed unto the world at the start of this year, and in true Bulletproof form no one is talking about it. A direct-to-video (or in this case Netflix) sequel that no one’s watching? Yeah, that’s my jam.

Keep reading for a look at Bulletproof 2 – a sequel set 25 years after the original in a world where the Bulletproof movie not only exists but is remembered as being terrible. So, set in the real world I guess?

The Beginning – Bulletproof (1996)

Rock Keats and Archie Moses are best friends and fairly successful car thieves, but their bank rolls don’t always match up at the end of each week. Turns out Archie has a side gig working for a drug lord/used car dealer named Frank Colton, and he’s decided to bring Rock into the fold. Surprise! Rock is actually an undercover cop who’s been waiting for the opportunity to move on Colton, but the bust goes sideways leaving Archie in the wind with a contract on his head and Rock in the hospital with a bullet in his. When Archie offers to turn state’s witness a few months later it’s Rock – real name Jack Carter – who’s tasked with bringing him in safely while pursued by Colton’s thugs, dirty cops, and the ever present grudge that both Archie and Jack hold towards each other. Lots of people die and fun is had by all (who survive).

The DTV Plot – Bulletproof 2 (2020)

It’s been a quarter century since the release of the movie Bulletproof, and the two men it was based on haven’t spoken in nearly as long. Jack Carter ended up testifying against Archie Moses sending the crook to the slammer for several years, and after his release Archie once again disappeared into the ether. Now a DEA agent inexplicably allowed to stay in the field despite the precariously resting bullet fragment in his head, Jack is sent on an undercover assignment to South Africa (a smart play seeing as these sequels typically film there on the cheap and pretend to be elsewhere) where he pretends to be Archie. Things once again go sideways leaving the real Archie – unaware and oblivious in his job cleaning up semen spills at a strip club elsewhere in South Africa (convenient!) marked for death. Fate once again sees Jack sent to protect Archie from the bad guys. Well, the worse guys.

Talent Shift

As is required by the laws of DTV sequels, every cast/crew element of this movie is a step or six down from the original, and while the 1996 film is no classic – it’s rarely funny, the action is fairly underwhelming, and the gay panic shtick is tiresome – it’s still a far more competent feature. Ernest Dickerson directed the first film, and while it’s something of a sad follow-up to the highs of Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995) and fun of Surviving the Game (1994) he’s still a talented filmmaker flexing creative muscles. Part 2 gets DTV sequel king Don Michael Paul whose filmography includes titles like Jarhead 2: Field of Fire (2014), Tremors 5: Bloodlines (2015), Kindergarten Cop 2 (2016), and The Scorpion King: Book of Souls (2018).

It gets equally bad in front of the camera as both Wayans and Sandler are understandable no shows here. To be clear, they’re referenced by characters trashing the original movie but they’re obviously not associated with the sequel. Instead we’re saddled with Faizon Love and Kirk Fox. Odds are you’re not familiar with either, but if you are then you know neither is lead material. Their talents are as supporting players where they can be in and out and visible only in short bursts, but here they’re the bulk of the film.

How the Sequel Respects the Original

The fact that Bulletproof 2 acknowledges the existence of the Bulletproof movie can honestly go either way, but it works well here and ultimately delivers the film’s only interesting elements. It’s a fun enough turn and works to explain why the actors have changed while also allowing for jokes about the original not being available on Netflix – which leads a character to torrent it instead. Interesting approach! (Of course, the sequel’s Archie also complains about the original movie making him “Jewish” which is another odd point to make…) The biggest plus in this regard, though, is that it leaves Jack and Archie the ability to be different characters with differing traits, facts, histories, etc. from the characters in the original movie. This in turn creates a different dynamic between the two in that they’re not nearly as friendly and are more believably begrudging towards each other.

Oddly, but not quite in an acclaim-worthy way, the sequel also combats the original’s gay panic jokes with a slightly more sex positive trend. There’s a dominatrix love interest, various body shapes/sizes are viewed as appealing, and Archie’s talk about sex with men is more deliberate and less typically judgmental. Of course, the film is also filled with naked women while only Love’s nude body is used to balance out the sexes. Unrelated, but the sequel also avoids anything as egregious as the first film’s running “joke” about the mentally challenged, so that’s progress I guess.

How the Sequel Shits on the Original

These DTV sequels almost always dump on the originals by their very existence, and their typical quality just deepens the embarrassment, but Bulletproof 2 is unique in that it directly shits on the original with insults and repeated slams about it being a terrible movie. It’s an extremely odd choice, and while I don’t expect Dickerson, Sandler, or Wayans to ever watch this one I’d be curious as to their thoughts. As mentioned above, this change also sees the pair be less friendly than they are in the original. The characters never mesh, and while a lack of chemistry is partly to blame the bigger issue is a script that has them more angry and at odds without the backdrop of a bitter friendship.

More generally, though, the sequel simply fails as an action/comedy. The latter is subjective, but I’d wager few will find anything in its excessive 97 minute running time to be laugh-worthy. The action fares only slightly better (than the comedy, not than the original film) as the gun fights are frequent and surprisingly bloody. That said, their staging and execution leaves viewers wanting far more. It doesn’t help that neither Love nor Fox are seemingly capable of action-oriented choreography. It’s a real Jack Sprat and wife situation – no shame – with the two apparently being cast on the basis of their supposedly comic visual appeal when side by side. Where both Wayans and Sandler are heavily featured in the action beats of the original, these two feel woefully out of place despite their characters being professionals used to such antics.

Conclusion

It’s no shocker that Bulletproof 2 is firing blanks as an action/comedy. Like many of these Universal 1440 Entertainment productions it feels like a thoughtless and cheap revisit to an existing property. It’s still an interesting approach setting it as a real-world follow-up to the movie we all know, but the idea goes nowhere fast thanks to a lack of effort. But hey, be sure to stay through the end credits to watch a CG rendering of the scene from the first film where Archie shoots Carter… in reverse for some reason?

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