The original Bad Boys movie is one that has permeated the pop-culture sphere ever since its release in 1995. Even if you haven’t seen the film, chances are you have caught yourself humming or singing along to the film’s theme song. While Bad Boys was never a great movie, it was still an entertaining popcorn flick and is seen by many as the quintessential buddy-cop movie. That said, Bad Boys II came and destroyed the potential of the franchise with the atrocities it committed. So, it was a great surprise to the film community to see Sony Pictures move ahead with a third installment seventeen years later. While it is remarkably better than the original two films, it continues the franchise’s tradition of falling short of great.
Bad Boys for Life sees the continuation of the buddy-cop partnership between Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence). Just as the audience has aged, our characters have too as Marcus is welcoming a grandchild into the world and Mike is getting to what I like to call mid-life bitterness phase. With the age and growing family Marcus decides to retire while Mike refuses to let go of the literalness of their manta, “We ride together, we die together, bad boys for life.” Along with the jump in time, we are introduced to the next generation in the form of the Miami police taskforce AMMO led by Paola Nunez’s Rita. Time seems to be the big thing as the threat this time around is a leader of a Mexico City drug cartel that seems to have it out for Mike Lowrey. One cannot beat the past alone as Lowrey must team up with the young officers from AMMO while trying to drag Burnett out of retirement in order to track down his demons.
This time jump between Bad Boys II (2003) and Bad Boys for Life brings changes that are both welcomed and those that would be better off in the scraps. The first welcomed change is the franchise’s tone shift—this movie feels more like a Fast and the Furious spin-off than a return to form. As a person who does not enjoy the F&F films, I still welcome this change of pace for Bad Boys as it breathes in a fresh gust of air into the action, story, and character interactions in a way that better accommodates today’s movie going audience. The action is engaging (particularly the chase scenes) throughout the movie and is shot in such a way that the audience is drawn into believing the over-the-top essence of the action scenes. That being said, the Fast and Furious palette did come with a major drawback.
With the revitalization, the filmmakers managed to kill the joy of seeing Will Smith’s Mike Lowrey on screen. It is okay to have a full-of-themselves protagonist in your film, but you have to still make them enjoyable to watch. Every time Smith’s character interacts with another, you will be left groaning at the cockiness of the character—there’s a point to where arrogance just comes off as ignorance. This is the main crux of the film.
That being said, all the new additions to the cast (Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, and Jacob Scipio) are all welcomed additions as they gave this film a little more life. Each of these characters bring unique traits, quirks, and skills that are very unique to what we have previously seen from Bad Boys world. I believe it will be these characters that will bring in a new audience to the franchise and continue to keep the franchise feeling fresh and relevant. Along with the new cast, Martin Lawrence blasts back onto the screen. His banter and quirks are by far the most entertaining part of the movie, and I hope that with this big return, we can see him pop-up more in films.
Overall, Bad Boys for Life was an entertaining action romp to kick off the new year. While it is nowhere near being considered great, it is by far the best entry in the Bad Boys franchise.
Bad Boys for Life is rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, sexual references and brief drug use.