When one thinks of iconic 90s and early 2000s movie action among the films that come to mind are probably the two “Bad Boys” movies. Each directed by Michael Bay, these films weren’t exactly critical darlings, but they became huge fan favorites thanks to the perfect charisma and charm shared by leads Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Seventeen years after the franchise was thought dead the third “Bad Boys” movie, “Bad Boys for Life”, reunites the two stars once again as detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett respectively who find themselves up against a new foe who has their eyes set on revenge against Lowrey for his involvement in a case early in career. This time Michael Bay is reduced simply to cameo appearance while directing team Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah are in the director chairs. It’s a new era for the Bad Boys with new creative minds helping tell the story. After such a long wait does “Bad Boys for Life” up the ante for the long dormant franchise or should this series have remained in slumber? Let’s find out. This is my review of “Bad Boys for Life”.
“Bad Boys for Life” may not be a work of cinematic art but I loved it! In an era where the two biggest action franchises are “John Wick” and the “Fast & Furious” franchise “Bad Boys for Life” fits right in embracing all the energy, fun and humor one would expect from a modern action blockbuster but there’s one thing this movie has that other franchises lack: the charisma of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. These two feel like they haven’t missed a beat despite 17 years of absence from the franchise and Lawrence’s own break from the spotlight in the 2010s. This threequel finds the two back in action with the same whit and charm that helped make the first two films so fun. Actually “Bad Boys for Life” feels even more enjoyable than the previous films embracing a slightly more grown up but still shamelessly over-the-top tone and style. I actually kind of wish this was what the first two movies were as it’s an improvement on Michael Bay’s direction. One thing that gives this movie and edge is that “Bad Boys for Life” knows exactly what it is and instead of trying to completely reinvent the series the filmmakers knew to allow the film to breath and to let the leads do what they do best, chew up screen, thrown out one liners and look good doing it while also adding some new elements in to compliment what already worked before.
“Bad Boys for Life” didn’t have to really try anything new to be an effective sequel, but I’m glad it does take some risks. I personally wasn’t asking a lot from this sequel but what I got impressed me. It felt like an inspired and genuine attempt to help take what worked from the franchise and improve upon it while never compromising the series’ identity which really is a hard thing to pull off especially after such a long hiatus. The filmmakers and performers actually try and succeed in one-upping both of the previous films by adding some new cinematic flair to the mix rather than trying to change the identity of the franchise overall. “Bad Boys for Life” brings the franchise to some insane levels with fun car chases, ridiculously unsurvivable scenarios our heroes somehow escape and explosions and money shots galore, all things you would expect…but none of this is as in your face as what Michael Bay attempted years ago. The editing, while still littered with its fair share of cuts, feels much more polished, the explosions and gunplay compliment the action rather than overpowering it, and the addition of new characters that actually feel useful adds a new dimension to Mike and Marcus’s partnership as Mike specifically is forced to learn to be part of a bigger team. The film even takes some chances by showing that the two detectives, as well as others they work with, are, in fact, human and can be hurt both physically and emotionally by what they’re going through. Simply put it makes these action heroes feel much more human.
But it’s not all perfect. “Bay Boys for Life” is fun, energetic and a great example of why cinema as escapism isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s hard to ignore that “Bad Boys for Life” feels all too comfortable embracing genre cliches and buddy cop tropes in spite of its own unique flair. The villain, or rather villains, aren’t really that memorable and while the writers attempt to make these baddies more relatable by connecting them to one of the leads in a very personal way it feels a little convoluted even if it adds to the emotional depth of the film and presents a fun twist. The final showdown feels like diet “Fast & Furious” even though it does provide for a great time and pushes the two main characters to their limits and while the film does take chances by killing off at least one main character, once the detectives figure out what’s really going on somehow that gets swept under the rug by the finale, yet another albeit more modern action cliche. But even with all this in mind “Bad Boys for Life” is still a good movie. Not great, but a huge improvement keeping things delightfully lighthearted where appropriate, sternly serious where its needs to and finding a great balance between engaging storytelling and shameless action escapism. It embraces its cliches rather than denying them and makes the most out of everything it has going for it and it’s hard to fault it for that.
“Bad Boys for Life” is a welcome addition to the modern action genre and, in my opinion, by far the best of the three films in the series to date. It’s funny, packs plenty of pulse-pounding action, sports great characters and personalities in the form of new and old favorites and provides plenty of infectious energy mixed with genuine heart to create a full experience even if it is an all too familiar one in the grand scheme of things. Fast paced and genuinely enjoyable, “Bad Boys for Life” is a prime example of how a franchise can improve with time and new eyes behind the camera pushing the series into several new direction while also somehow staying well within its comfort zone. It’s a great blend of old and new and there’s promise that the series could even continue. If the series does go into a fourth film or beyond, I could completely get on board if it promises to embrace the same kind of energy and personality it presented here. This could be the start of something neat and after watching this film I’m completely on board. Even if it doesn’t continue, this third film would end the franchise on its highest note to date.