Bad Boy for Life is real. After many years of production delays and with the development of this film on and off again, I was beginning to doubt if the movie would ever happen. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if the trailer was all part of some rousing fake news campaign to drum up some life into the box office careers of stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. However, Smith and co-producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Doug Belgrad could finally pull it all together and allow this iconic 90s action franchise to live once again. And make even it entertaining too!
That’s right! While movies that are often stuck in development hell for many years are awful, Bad Boys for Life has risen above that and produced a movie that is a fantastic reminder of just how great a combination Smith and Lawrence are and exactly what we have been missing without them. This third piece to the franchise is no second coming of the action genre, but it is a healthy reminder of why these movies became so popular.
Bad Boys for Life sees a now older but not necessarily wiser Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) contemplating retirement while having a new crop of “experts” – part of an Advanced Miami Metro Operations (AMMO) team – ready to replace them. While Lowrey remains as gung-ho as ever, Burnett is now a grandfather and wants to settle down to a life away from chasing dangerous criminals. However, when some shadows from the past (played by Kate del Castillo and Jacob Scipio) return and leaves one of them fighting for their lives, the two have to put their differences aside and team up one last time.
The story itself is pretty cliched, as are many of the new characters (played by Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Paola Nunez, Nicky Jam), but it builds on the direction that both characters were heading down from the previous movies which make this third entry feel right at home as part of the franchise. There are some twists that don’t flow as well from a character development perspective, but do give the story a little more dramatic bite than the franchise is used to. And these make the stakes higher than they have ever been before.
Don’t let the word drama confuse you though because while there are scenes designed to escalate the emotion, this is out and out a Bad Boys movie. And even though the director of the first two films, Michael Bay, is not behind the camera for this one, his influences are layered all over Bad Boys for Life (and not to mention a cameo in front of the camera too). From dramatic slow-motion shots, panning cameras, epic high-speed car chases and lots of unnecessary explosions. Belgian-borne newcomer directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah perhaps don’t execute some of the action as slickly as only the Master of Bayhem could, but they have similar skills with cinematic pyrotechnics.
Unfortunately, they’ve also copied some of Bay’s sillier habits like bad guys that can’t hit anything, bullets that shoot through walls and floors, but not through a wooden table when the protagonists are behind it and many moments which defy the laws of physics. But hey, this is Hollywood and not some realistic war film. The editing is a little messy and the cinematographer, to make Mexico and Miami feel different, overdoes the colour palette a bit. Minor complaints though that shouldn’t take away from the enjoyment of the film.
If there is one area though where Adil and Bilall (as they affectionately prefer to be called) take the film in a different direction it is in the graphic nature of the violence. While the first two films were violent in themselves, this film ups the ante with the graphic nature of its death scenes and the amount of actual blood it spills on camera. Going hand-in-hand with this, parts of the story has Smith’s Lowry go to such dark places in this movie that he almost feels like a bad guy at times, blurring the morality of the character and arguably finally evoking that Bad Boys title.
Smith’s darkness is countered by Lawrence’s humour, which really represents the best parts of the movie. Whereas Smith carries the emotional weight, Lawrence has all the best comedic moments and he executes them to perfection. For all of its grittier and darker action, the movie is also the funniest entry in the franchise thanks to the script by Chris Bremner, Peter Craig, Joe Carnahan and Lawrence’s ability to deliver those killer gag lines. This film will leave you in stitches, which is a good remedy for some of the silliness.
Bad Boys for Life is not nearly as memorable as the first movie, but probably a lot better than the second – and one that takes its characters in a new direction. Whether that direction is another sequel or a focus on some of the newer characters though remains to be seen (the scene is set up for both approaches). The film is far from perfect and outright stupid but it is most of all entertaining and a great vehicle for showing that Smith and Lawrence are an entertaining combo on the big screen.
Bad boys, bad boys. What you gonna do when they come for you? Go watch this movie and have a blast, that’s what.
Last Updated: January 20, 2020