Bad Boys For Life — the third movie in the popular action franchise sparked by Michael Bay’s 1995 action smash starring Martin Lawrence and Will Smith — continues the story of two rogue Miami cops who will go to any lengths to get things done. And we should also probably mention the fact that the newest addition to the Bad Boys canon happens to be completely bats*** insane.
Set in what seems to be real-time so around 17 years since the last Bad Boys film and 25 since the original, we find the titular duo, Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) at a crossroads in their lives. Mike wants to keep on doing what they do best — indiscriminately killing criminals in inventive fashions whilst driving fast cars — but Marcus is ready to settle down as he’s just become a grandfather. But when a figurative ghost from Mike’s past makes a horrific and violent return, the pair are forced to weigh up what really matters to them and what they’ll do to protect it.
It’s hard to get too far into the story without revealing some of Bad Boys’ strangest secrets — and boy does it have those — but stylistically directors Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi do a great job paying homage to the bonkers of Bay whilst updating the look of the film so it doesn’t seem dated when sitting alongside the Hobbs & Shaws of the contemporary action landscape. Speaking of which, Bad Boys for Life definitely feels like it took some tips from the Fast and Furious spin-off when it comes to pushing the boat out with some of its stranger action sequences and set-pieces. Whilst it never quite reaches those heights it’s an ambitious attempt to meld over-the-top superhero-inspired action with the more classic R-rated violence and comedy that the Bad Boys franchise is known for.
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Lawrence and Smith are clearly having a lot of fun here with the latter trying to recapture his youth and avoid the realities of growing up and the former just wanting to finally take some time off. In 2020 there’s definitely an aspect of Bad Boys that play differently as these films arguably glamorize police violence and in the newest entry militarized policing. Bad Boys for Life does try to reckon with that a little, attempting to speak to the idea of pacifism and coming to terms with your past, but ultimately what really saves the film from any deep critical breakdown is its own commitment to being completely and utterly ridiculous. We kid you not, by the end of this movie you’ll likely be wondering if the whole thing takes place in a John Wick-style alternate universe. And who knows, maybe it does? Whatever the case, there’s an almost impressive amount of WTF moments that had this reviewer’s theater in a mix of hysterics and total shock.
Bad Boys for Life is, at its core, doing what any studio movie does these days: setting up a potential new franchise. Let’s call it Bad Boys: The New Class. These new members are mostly made up of a militarized police force known as AMMO which is staffed exclusively by inexplicably good looking ex-teen actors. High School Musical’s Vanessa Hudgens takes on the weapons expert role, Riverdale’s Charles Melton is the sassy muscle, and The Hunger Games’ Alexander Ludwig rounds out the newbies as a tech genius with a tragic past. Unlike most films trying to introduce new legacy characters, though, Bad Boys for Life does it relatively well. Hudgens and co. are charming and their ongoing dynamic with the reluctant elders is a fun one.
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Whilst the core cast is solid the standout here is Jacob Scipio’s antagonist Armando Armas who thanks to brilliant stunts and great action direction has some truly stunning and violent moments. It helps that Scipio is a talented actor who has one of the most fully fleshed-out character arcs in the film. He’s also at the center of Bad Boy For Life’s most surreal subplot which makes him one of the most entertaining and empathetic characters. After all, he is seeking revenge on two murderous cops who kill dozens of people on a regular basis. Whilst visually impressive — if you like fast cars, well-cut suits, and impeccably shot action — and filled with an entertaining cast, Bad Boys for Life flails slightly when it comes to pacing, narrative, and anything that exists below the very shiny surface.
Basically, if you’re prepared for the silly, savage, and sometimes completely unbelievable R-rated action that Bad Boys for Life has to offer than you’ll likely be glad you took the ride along. It works to build out the existing world of the franchise whilst delivering fan service moments, classic character callbacks, and a chance for Lawrence and Smith to ride again. For filmgoers who aren’t prepared for the action assault from all sides, it might not be the movie for you, especially when it hits its wild stride in the third act and completely commits to all-out war. Though it probably won’t be the last time that the Bad Boys ride it would be a totally acceptable send-off to an action franchise that is still flying the flag for the old days of bombastic blockbuster fare.
Source: IGN.com Bad Boys for Life Review