Movie Review: BAD BOYS FOR LIFE Starring Will Smith, Martin Lawrence
If you’ve ever seen the movie Major League II, there’s a scene towards the beginning of the film where two of the main characters are watching the trailer for the action movie one of them is starring in. As the action gets increasingly outlandish and impossible, the star of the film can’t contain his excitement, while the other character becomes more and more incredulous, to the point that his jaw was agape at the end, wondering “What did I just watch?”
That dichotomy was me in a nutshell as I watched Bad Boys for Life, excited yet bewildered. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing; this series is meant to be fun, but it’s not a documentary on police work.
It’s been 25 years since Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) first paired up in the first film, a fact that’s not lost on them. A little longer in the tooth with a few more inches around the waistline, the Bad Boys are approaching the age at which many officers contemplate retirement; more accurately, one of them is, while the other is hoping to continue for a while (if this reminds you of Lethal Weapon 3, you’re not far off).
Despite the fact that it’s been nearly 16 years since the last movie, it’s impossible to deny the chemistry that Lawrence and Smith have on-screen. With the camaraderie of lifelong friends, they play off each other well; Smith’s alpha-male confidence is the perfect foil to Lawrence’s cautious, practical attitude. Recognizing that they’re no longer spring chickens, the film introduces a squad of younger police officers that end up working alongside the two. Led by Rita (Paola Núñez), AMMO, as the team is called, lends assistance into the investigation of a series of police murders, leading them back to a mother/son duo (Kate del Castillo and Jacob Scipio), whose husband/father was killed by Mike years ago.
Visually, the film is pretty much what you’d expect from the Bad Boys series. It’s sleek, full of quick cuts, and littered with dramatic low-angle pans around Marcus and Mike. The visual effects are hit-or-miss; the CGI could use some work in some spots, but overall it’s pretty aesthetically pleasing.
The main and supporting cast do well enough with what they’re given. Rita’s a solid counter to Mike, and an obvious rapport builds between the two. Charles Melton, Vanessa Hudgens, and Alexander Ludwig comprise AMMO, and they’re able enough as the young digital hotshots who hope to eventually replace their analog counterparts. Joe Pantoliano returns once again as Captain Howard, and he’s just as you might remember him from the first two films.
But the real star of the film is the dialogue and the repartee between Mike and Marcus. The plot itself is a bit weary, but Smith and Lawrence are able to keep the audience entertained throughout the two-hour movie thanks to their strong bond. Although the film was tagged with the line “One Last Ride,” but the ending leaves open the possibility of a fourth, which might be feasible if they don’t take another decade-plus hiatus.
I have to admit, I went in with somewhat low expectations. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the first two films, the fact that it’s been so long between films was in the back of my mind, and it had me wondering whether they’d be able to keep up the partnership; 25 years is an eternity in Hollywood, and what was entertaining back in the 90s wouldn’t necessarily make for a great film now. Still, this is vintage Smith: a blend of humor, action, and just enough gravity to succeed. I don’t know that it’s as good as the first two, but you could do far worse.
Bad Boys for Life gets a B-