Bad Boys for Life Review: Bad Boys is back and in good hands
Breaking both the reboot/remake/sequel curse and the general notion that films released in January are destined to be bad, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence reunite to bring the Bad Boys back to the big screen.
Although plenty of years have passed since Bad Boys II, Miami’s top detectives Mike Loughery (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) are still humming down the streets in Mike’s high-speed cars and singing the lyrics from their theme. However, after tragedy nearly strikes Mike after a new threat enters Miami, Marcus is looking to retire while Mike is looking for vengeance. With his partner gone, Mike can only rely on the help of his ex, Rita (Paola Nunez), and the department’s new AMMO squad – which, as Mike describes, is a High School Musical, boy band with guns. However, as this dangerous new foe leaves more destruction in his path that could get Mike killed – Marcus can’t stay on the sidelines. Instead, the two team up once more to ride or die for one another and cement themselves as Bad Boys for life.
Seeing Smith and Lawrence back on-screen together is a dream come true for fans. While Smith has basically been playing characters like Mike throughout his career, but there’s just something that feels so right with his performance here and he brings something fresh to his return as Mike. Obviously, Smith’s cocky charm is hard to resist, even if we’ve seen it plenty times before, and he continues to prove that age is no factor for him in being a kick-ass action hero. Smith also brings some strong vulnerability with Mike having to face his past actions and see how they affect the people around him. There’s even a very touching moment between Mike and Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano), who it’s an absolute pleasure to see, that I think adds some strong maturity to the film between the hilarity and wild action.
While it’s great, in general, to see Lawrence back on the big screen, it’s even better to see him again as Marcus. With Marcus being a little more emotional and family-oriented since we last saw him, Lawrence kind of plays him as a quirky dad and it totally hilarious. He really keeps everything balanced and the more religious and even-grounded mentality he takes on after Mike’s issues early on in the film lead to some great moments. From Marcus praying to God to help Mike as he’s getting his ass whooped in a fight to him trying to “penetrate a man’s soul” with words just to get rocked in the face, Lawrence brings his “a-game.” Together, him and Smith are truly unstoppable with the charisma, genuine joy, and attitude they bring, and they somehow find a balance between familiar and fresh that any viewer will love.
Honestly, there’s a freshness and genuine joy that can be felt with just about every performance and I think its in strong part to having new directors take control of the reigns. For the first two were actually directed by Michael Bay, but this third film is actually helmed by the duo of Adil and Bilall. Outside of a few episodes of FX’s Snowfall, the two hadn’t really done anything to this scale – but that never shows. The action sequences are strong and a lot of fun, the chemistry between old and new faces to the franchise, and the sleek look of the entire film is great, and they even include some great callbacks and cameos that fans will love. There’s even a great cameo from Bay that sort of symbolizes a nice passing of the torch and it shows that the genuine care these two have for the franchise. In short, Bad Boys is in good hands.
The only thing that didn’t really work for me was some of the story connections to Mike that come into play in the film’s final act. The film is definitely more focused on Mike’s story and there’s a twist that comes in that really doesn’t feel necessary. It’s a choice that is incredibly cliché, especially for sequels, and took away from some of the freshness that most of the film has. I’m also mixed on how I feel about the film setting up for a sequel because I felt like things could’ve ended here just fine. Even though all a sequel would have to do is bring an ounce of fun thrill ride that’s presented here, I’m worried that a sequel would make all of the freshness here feel stale.
Bad Boys for Life is not the typical return of a legendary franchise as Smith and Lawrence are undeniably hilarious and there’s a genuine care that fans will surely appreciate. While I’m still mixed on the idea of the Bad Boys franchise continuing past this great third installment, more is definitely on the way and there’s a lot to be excited about. In a time/month where movies usually suck, the “Bad Boys” of cinema break the January curse and give viewers a fun ride or die experience that can’t be missed.