Saturday, January 18, 2020

Bad Boys for Life - Review

Belated sequels may be all the rage the last five years, however, this feels like one of the few instances where the actors need it more than the studio. Sure, Will Smith has had some moderate successes in the years since Bad Boys II, but Martin Lawrence definitely has not. For the two men, far from their days as the titular boyish and brash cops, Bad Boys for Life is a chance to return to something familiar, and quite possibly make the best of the three in the process.

Old-school cops Mike Lowery (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) team up to take down the vicious leader of a Miami drug cartel. Newly created elite team AMMO of the Miami police department along with Mike and Marcus go up against the ruthless Armando Armas (Jacob Scipio).

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are the most obvious draw, if there is one. Their faces are on the poster, their names used in every piece of marketing, and the film essentially sold on the return of their chemistry as partners. Luckily, it’s all still there and maybe better than ever. The two actors have very different career paths, and yet, when pushed back into the roles of Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett, they don’t skip a beat.

The story largely follows the perspective of Smith’s Lowery, determined to hunt down bad guys until his dying breath, more so than Lawrence’s Burnett, who has one foot out the door to retirement from the get go. It instantly makes the dynamic more interesting. Combine that with the threat of a new unit potentially replacing them and the whole cast has a great excuse for a back and forth clash of ideals as the film moves.

Noticeably missing from the production is the director of the previous two entries: Michael Bay. Outside of an opening chase that seemingly imitates and mocks the directing style of the famed action filmmaker, complete with a hero shot of the men emerging from a fancy car, the direction of this film takes a notably more balanced approach. The macho attitude of Lowery still exists, but  writers Chris Bremner, Peter Craig, and Joe Carnahan make sure to chip away at that worldview with a surprisingly coherent and emotional narrative.

Bad Boys for Life is an early candidate for surprise of the year. There is still a lot of time left in 2020, but the fact that this film came out fifteen years after the last entry, in January no less, managed to be this solid, and actually make a potential fourth film exciting, is a minor miracle. If you enjoyed the over the top action and charisma of the leading men in the first two, it’s hard to imagine you won’t at least enjoy this third entry as well. 

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