Bad Boys For Life
Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Paola Nunez, Vanessa Hudgens, Kate del Castillo, Alexander Ludwig, Joe Pantoliano, Jacob Scipio
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…lacklustre and devoid of inspiration…
It has been seventeen years since Michael Bay’s Bad Boys II exploded onto screens in a shower of broken glass, ricocheting bullets and a cheerful disregard for human life. And while you’d be hard pressed to find many people to say it was a ‘good’ movie, it was iconic and deeply unusual in fascinating ways. Even if you didn’t like the movie, it was hard to deny its impact on mainstream action cinema, best epitomised by Edgar Wright’s charming love letter to the genre, Hot Fuzz (2007). Well, since it’s 2020 and no film franchise gets to stay dead for long, here comes Bad Boys for Life and it’s… about what you’d expect, really.
Bad Boys for Life reintroduces our ageing buddy cops, Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), with the latter becoming a grandfather in the opening minutes of the film. Marcus reckons this is a sign that the bad boys should slow down, but Mike is sticking with the mantra “we ride together, we die together”. He almost gets the chance to do so, after being gunned down by the mysterious Armando Armas Tapia (Jacob Scipio) at the behest of his bad arse mum, Isabel (Kate del Castillo). A few bullets can’t keep Mike down for long, so he needs to recover, get Marcus back on board and defeat this new threat that seems somehow familiar…
The biggest change from the usual Bad Boys formula is the lack of Michael Bay as director (although he does have a moderately amusing cameo). This time Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah take the helm and the result feels very in keeping with action movies in 2020. The script by Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan also ticks a lot of modern action movie boxes: ageing protagonists, earnest monologues about the importance of family, extremely predictable plot twists and a bunch of disparate narrative threads that are clearly setting up potential future sequels and/or spin-off movies.
Will Smith is, as always, a charming and likable presence and his natural chemistry with Martin Lawrence (who is really trying hard here, bless his heart) is the highlight of the film. Less successful are the new mother and son villain team, whose motivations and behaviour are frequently baffling, and the movie somehow contains a worse one-liner than “you forgot your boarding pass” from the original Bad Boys (1995). The action, while certainly more coherent than pretty much anything Michael Bay has ever done, is also pretty lacklustre and devoid of inspiration. Which, honestly, is a statement that could be applied to the entire exercise.
Bad Boys for Life is a film no one was really asking for, but if you’re able to get over that hurdle, you might enjoy the cheerful camaraderie of the leads and the consistently adequate action scenes. If, however, you’d rather not sit through yet another attempt to reanimate an old franchise for future exploitation, you’re better off riding and dying somewhere else entirely.