Bad Boys for Life
2020, R, 123 min. Directed by Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah. Starring Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Alexander Ludwig, Vanessa Hudgens, Joe Pantoliano, Paola Nuñez, Charles Melton, Kate del Castillo, Nicky Jam, Theresa Randle.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 17, 2020
It’s been 25 years since Michael Bay’s original Bad Boys and 17 years since the sequel, Bad Boys II, arrived in theatres, which raises the question, given the lag time between installments, is this an actual franchise, or merely a series of conjoined action-comedy one-offs that just keep popping off whenever stars Smith and Lawrence don’t have scheduling conflicts? At least Warner Bros. Pictures' Lethal Weapon franchise had the good sense to keep within a decade’s framework. Bad Boys producers Jerry Bruckheimer and (the late) Don Simpson found themselves with a surprise hit on their hands when the original film debuted, thus a sequel was inevitable, but still … what niche audience cried out for a third installment of these ever-aging bad boys? (My bet’s on a breakaway, popcorn-violence addicted faction of Michael Apted’s … Up series of documentaries, the latest of which, 63 Up, is currently in theatres. A rather more ominous splinter cabal of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood fanatics may also be involved.) Whatever the case may be, Bad Boys for Life echoes over and over Danny Glover’s classic Lethal Weapon catchphrase, “I’m getting too old for this shit.”
The short answer to a question nobody ever asked is this: Is Bad Boys for Life worth your time and money, fan or otherwise? The answer is yes, just so long as you’re cool with the same old, same old. After all, there’s comfort in familiarity to be sure; these are definitively uncomfortable times, and Smith and Lawrence’s comic-action chemistry remains reassuringly intact. Smith slips into the bespoke suit of severely badass Miami PD Detective Mike Lowrey as if he’d never left and Lawrence, as his longtime partner Detective Marcus Burnett, sidles up alongside with nary a quiver.
The two actors' chemistry is undeniable, unchangeable, forged by Michael Bay and company, and it holds up under new directors El Arbi and Fallah. Marcus, a proud new grandfather with an eye toward a future involving far less cordite-scented adventures and a few more baby wipes, attempts to pull his partner out of the Baysian shoot-'em-up-loop to little avail, and it’s almost – dare I say it? – sweet to watch Smith attempt to be a “bad boy” forever and all that that implies, i.e., more firepower and a roving eye. Without revealing a reveal fans will see coming a mile away, the film's plot is both pro-familial and borderline anti-, and up to a point it works, with plenty of choice one-liners and quips abounding. That major plot point We Dare Not Reveal hamstrings the film, though, at least emotionally. Again, however, Bad Boys for Life – while not as combustibly fun as the second installment – is fine, cheesy, Saturday afternoon mayhem, smoothly served with a heaping helping of “We’re all getting older.” But are we getting wiser? And does it matter? Probably. “For Life” sounds like a sentence I’d rather not carry out.
Matthew Monagle, Dec. 9, 2022
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Bad Boys for Life, Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah, Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Alexander Ludwig, Vanessa Hudgens, Joe Pantoliano, Paola Nuñez, Charles Melton, Kate del Castillo, Nicky Jam, Theresa Randle