Despite missing the opportunity to call a fourth film ‘Bad Boys 4 Life,’ the seriously entertaining third entry in Sony Pictures’ Bad Boys series, Bad Boys for Life, never misses a comedic beat.
Things have changed in the seventeen years since we last saw detectives and best friends Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) moseying down the streets of Miami. Marcus’ family has grown, Mike’s hair has turned grey (no matter how much he denies it), and technology has evolved to the point where drones take on surveillance duties previously handled by police.
The world around them may have changed, but the pair’s perpetual squabbling and general stubbornness remains as prevalent today as it first had in 1995 (and it is just as enjoyable to behold). In Bad Boys for Life, the crux of the duo’s bickering centers around Marcus’ desire to hang-up the badge and retire – an act Mike wants no part of. The fear of settling down and moving out of the fast lane has no place in Mike’s life (you better believe that he wouldn’t have bought a Porsche if that were the case). In Mike’s eyes, he remains the same hard-bodied cop looking to make the world a safer place.
The return of a dangerous threat from Mike’s past (Kate del Castillo), accompanied by her tough-as-nails assassin son (Jacob Scipio), throws the two detectives back into the action. Proving too big of a mission for the two lifelong friends/partners, they are joined by a dedicated team of specialist agents each with their own strengths and peculiarities, the likes of which include the sensitive techy who doubles as the muscle (Alexander Ludwig), an undercut-donning super-soldier (Vanessa Hudgens), a smarty-pants agent intent on pushing Mike’s buttons (Charles Melton), and the no-nonsense leader of the pack, Rita (Paola Núñez). All characters bring added excitement to the film and point the future of the series into a positive direction.
There is a heightened sense of awareness to Bad Boys for Life that is pleasing to both fans of macho-action flicks and those longing for the campy-unserious-goodness of 90s blockbusters. Making their Hollywood debut, directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah succeed in living up to the Michael Bay-level action ante. Car chases are high-octane, fights have a grit to them, and set pieces provide a scope that elevates the action.
The directors bring to the series new blood (a lot of blood in fact) and a gutsy determination – as evident in the delightful manner they incorporate telenovela sensibilities into the film’s climax – that will hopefully find them continued success across future directorial efforts, the likes of which include an upcoming Beverly Hills Cop installment that goes to show that everything we loved in the 90s will live on in perpetuity.
Comedy has always been a bedrock of the Bad Boys films, with Bad Boys for Life proving no-exception. The film becomes the Martin Lawrence show, with the established comedian proving capable of landing not only the laughs but many of the film’s most tender moments. True to form, Will Smith doubles down on the cool-guy schtick. However, his efforts don’t always render as convincing, with the actor demonstrating the same level of ferocity as an angry Dachshund.
While the action has certainly been dialed up in Bad Boys for Life, there is an innate humbleness to the film – brought out in the lead characters’ charisma – that keeps the film balanced. The pressure is placed on the now reinvigorated series to keep the momentum moving upwards; a situation which risks replacing the film’s absorbing groundedness with visual bombardment à la Fast and the Furious.
Here is to hoping Sony continues to deliver the goods on future Bad Boys films and doesn’t miss the opportunity to call the fourth installment ‘Bad Boys 4ever’.
Despite both actors receiving top billing, this is the first film in the series where Will Smith is billed first & Martin Lawrence is billed second.