Bad Boys for Life
Updated: Jul 12, 2021
Bad Boys was released in 1995, when Will Smith and Martin Lawrence were hot young comedic actors. They were both stars when the second came out in 2003. The third comes out seventeen years later, when Smith is struggling to find another hit and Lawrence has all but disappeared from the big screen (his only appearance since 2011 was in last year’s The Beach Bum). As the first two did, it is expected to do alright at the box-office, especially against light competition. Fans of the series will undoubtedly want to check it out. It is the same quip-and-action-filled extravaganza, just less scattershot (likely due to the directorial switch from Michael Bay to a duo known as Adil and Bilall). There is a stronger plot, with higher stakes and a mild sense of mortality. It is better from a technical standpoint, though not as fun. Assuming more entries are coming, it seems like a step in the right direction for the franchise. However, it still felt like I had already seen it twice.
As always, our heroes are hotshot detective Mike Lowrey and his loyal partner, Marcus Burnett. Mike wants to drive flashy cars, sleep with beautiful women and chase bad guys forever. Meanwhile, Marcus, a new grandfather, is contemplating retirement. When the widow of a cartel leader escapes from prison, Mike must confront his past as Marcus thinks about his future.
Like its predecessors, the success of Bad Boys for Life is entirely dependent on the charm of its stars. Smith and Lawrence slide back into these characters’ odd couple friendship very easily. Smith’s Mike is the stereotypical “cool movie cop;” all reckless behavior and slow-motion shootouts. Lawrence’s Marcus is an anxious family man who reluctantly follows Mike into battle. Both roles allow the actors to do what they do best. They have good chemistry together. This time, they are fractionally more believable versions of these characters, giving them more to play than normal. They still have to do the heavy lifting, but at least they have some depth here.
The biggest difference is their age is a significant factor now. Marcus is distinctly aware he is getting older and is starting to find spending time with his family more appealing than risking his life. Mike chooses to ignore this; instead, throwing everything he has at the job. I appreciated that the movie brought that material up. Unsurprisingly, it is not actually about that. This is an action/comedy, so those things are used mainly for jokes about technology and interplay between them and a group of young officers. So those ideas are introduced, then its Explosion! Car Chase! Shootout! Yet this stuff has slightly more impact this time around because there is kind of something on the line. Think of it as more mature mindless violence mixed with occasionally witty dialogue.
Let’s be honest; we knew what this would be. Bad Boys for Life (118 minutes, without the end credits) is the third Bad Boys movie. It is everything implied by that sentence and not a single thing more. If you enjoyed the first two, it is probably for you. I found them to be okay and this one was in the same ballpark. Smith and Lawrence are fun, I laughed a few times, gave some extra points to the more thought-out story, then got tired of the macho bluster and repetitive action. Whether those things end in a net positive is up to you. For me, it all adds up to “meh.”
2¾ out of 5
Will Smith as Detective Mike Lowrey
Martin Lawrence as Detective Marcus Burnett
Paola Nuñez as Rita
Joe Pantoliano as Captain Howard
Vanessa Hudgens as Kelly
Charles Melton as Rafe
Alexander Ludwig as Dorn
Kate del Castillo as Isabel Aretas
Jacob Scipio as Armando
Directed by Adil and Bilall
Screenplay by Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan