25 years since the first film and 17 years since the sequel. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence stick to their oath as “Bad Boys For Life”. The third film in the franchise directed by newcomers Adil and Bilall, pump new life into the lives of Mike and Marcus, while still sticking to the nostalgia of the franchise. The two filmmakers prove they got a big future ahead as filmmakers while Will Smith and Martin Lawrence give their best performances, pumping human elements and real emotion into their born to play roles that was missing from the first two films. “Bad Boys For Life” is what fans have been waiting for, as it all feels earned and rewarding.
The Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer produced “Bad Boys”, has reached the milestone of celebrating it’s twenty-fifth anniversary. It set off the career for director Michael Bay, who directed “Bad Boys” as his first feature film. It’s two lead stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, were two of tv’s biggest stars in two of tv’s biggest network sitcoms.
Will was in the middle of shooting season five of the six season run of “The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air”. While Martin Lawrence was still shooting season three of his sitcom “Martin”, which lasted for five seasons. The transition to the big screen in “Bad Boys” for Will and Martin, would be their first leading film roles. The two made the roles of Miami narcotics detectives, Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey all their own.
“Bad Boys” became a box office smash grossing more than $140 million and received positive reviews from critics and fans. With “Bad Boys” becoming a success for everyone involved and fans loving the chemistry between it’s stars. Columbia Pictures, Michael Bay, Will Smith, Martin Lawrence and most of the cast and crew, returned eight years later for the even bigger and more explosive “Bad Boys II”.
Grossing more than $273 million, “Bad Boys II” was a fan favorite but bashed by critics. Showcased with a much bigger budget, bigger action and trademark “Bayhems”. Now here we are seventeen years after the sequel, with the third installment as Smith and Lawrence keep to their oath of “Ride Or Die. Bad Boys For Life”.
I personally couldn’t be more excited to see a third film finally finding it’s way to theaters. The biggest difference here is to have a “Bad Boys” movie that isn’t directed by Michael Bay. In his place are Belgian filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. They don’t go full Michael Bay, but have paid homage to Bay’s playbook when it comes to the scale of the action but unlike Bay, they ratchet the violence up to gruesome levels (there is two really neat kills).
“Bad Boys” was always known for high body counts, perfectly staged car chases, crazy gun battles, slick slo-mo shots and on point chemistry and comedy which are all replicated here and not done just for the stake of nostalgia. That’s not to say there isn’t any nostalgia injected into the script… The most nostalgic is the classic shit just got real “Bad Boys” 360 shot, which was featured in the previous two films. Even the “Bad Boys” classical theme score that opens the first film makes it’s return, which was a really nice touch (you’ll recognize it when you hear it).
While it keeps to a familiar “Bad Boys” structure. What I loved so much of directors Adil and Bilall’s film is the inclusion of putting major heart and human emotion in between the action. An aspect that’s a really nice addition to what has been missing in the previous films.
The first “Bad Boys” film was their movie and their story. “Bad Boys II” focuses more on Martin Lawrence’s story and now “Bad Boys For Life” is Will’s story. You’ll even notice that the first two films Martin Lawrence got top billing over Smith, but this time around Will (who is also a producer) gets the first name drop this time around.
With that being said, “Bad Boys For Life” has a personal stake for Will Smith’s Mike Lowrey. A past mistake comes back to haunt him in a big way, and Mike slowly learns he isn’t as bulletproof as he thinks. Anyone who has seen the first two films would never have expected a deep exploration of Mike’s brush with mortality but it’s more than I expected to see.
Will has a great speech as he pleads to Lawrence for one last ride before retirement. The emotional speech is acted with a degree of excellence by Smith who always brings it. Scenes like this is welcomed as we are used to seeing Mike thriving in the chaos that it’s refreshing to see another side of Mike. “Bad Boys For Life” makes excellent use of Smith’s range as an actor, and this is some of the best work he’s done in a decade.
While Mike is all about running down bad guys until he’s a 100 and keeping to the bad boys for life, lifestyle. Marcus on the other hand has become a grandfather and is ready to trade in his badge for a BarcaLounger. Marcus has always been more of a voice of reason, promising to god to stay away from violence as much as possible. He’s done with all the excitement and danger and vows to stay retired. Of course, we all know Marcus will eventually get back in the game, sometime within the course of the two hour film. But damn it’s great to see Martin back on the big screen again.
Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are much older and grayer, where Mike is dyeing his goatee and Marcus can’t see a thing without his glasses. But they’re still quick with the trigger and the one-liners. What’s surprising about the third film, is how well it justifies bringing these two characters back together almost two decades after their last outing.
But you would think that after twenty five years of busting bad guys they would have gotten promoted. Shouldn’t at least one of them be ranked as Captain by now? I guess being a regular detective pays well in Miami? Just check out Mike’s penthouse apartment. How much do these detectives rake in anyway? Mike’s place would be $3-4 million easily.
Joe Pantoliano’s abrupt but lovable Captain Howard is back, and Pantoliano continues to take a big bite out of every scene he’s in and kills each scene in his usual style. Newcomers to the cast is Paola Nunez as Rita, a former love interest of Mike’s who heads Miami P.D.’s elite, cutting edge unit called: AMMO.
The crew includes my Hollywood crush Vanessa Hudgens as a tough and resourceful sharp-shooter who greatly admires Mike; Vanessa kills it in her action scenes. Charles Melton (“The Sun Is Also A Star”) as a hotshot who disrespects the “old man” Mike, and Alexander Ludwig (“Race To Witch Mountain”) as a Thor-looking muscle bound techie, who prefers to stay in the surveillance van and concentrate on the tech side, instead of adhering to violence.
“Bad Boys For Life” takes a bit longer to develop Mike and Marcus’ lives, giving them weightier material to work with. It helps to give them the best performances out of the three films, both Smith and Lawrence tap into more vulnerable sides of their characters.
The credited writers of “Bad Boys For Life” include newcomer Chris Bremner and veterans Peter Craig (who wrote the script for Ben Affleck’s “The Town”) and Joe Carnahan (“Smokin’ Aces”, “The A-Team” and “The Grey”) and though we don’t know who wrote what? What’s for certain is that none of them really knows how to write comedy that sticks. While “Bad Boys For Life” has it’s laughs, there isn’t consistent hard earned laughs like the first two films. We do experience the biggest laughs quite late in the movie that come in rapid-fire fashion.
I want to stay away from discussing the plot as quite a few things that surprised me in good ways and I don’t want to give away any of those mysteries. Then there are things that had also surprised me in bad ways, such as the films villains Armando Armas (Jacob Scipio) and Isabel Armas (Kate Del Castillo).
A mother and son duo who want Mike dead. Armando is a good villain and has great fight scenes with Will, is the more gung-ho of the two. Here is where the bad and the eye rolls come in as Isabel who is the brains of the operation, also happens to be a witch of some sort. It’s way too silly to even go into full detail here. Her goal is to make Mike suffer, her saying that takes up most of her dialogue, but in what ways she intends to do that remains unclear for much of the movie.
Incorporating a fresh vision into the slick style longtime fans love about the “Bad Boys” films that honor the legacy. Bringing the fresh vision and taking the reins is the first Hollywood film from the Belgian duo of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (billed as Directed By: “Adil and Bilall” in the credits). The directing duo go full tilt from the very opening, as the two show a knack for kinetic action. Even though Bay set the tone and style for the trilogy, the duo creates a style all their own.
Directors Adil and Bilall tone things down while doubling down on new directions and sense of energy that makes for a new experience for the series. Adil and Bilall don’t stage their gunfights or conversations to fly by at Michael Bay’s known speed of 100 miles per hour. They give the characters room to breathe and lets the actors flesh out more intimacy and depth than the past movies.
One of the remarkable things is how playing the characters for only the third time in over 25 years, is watching how seamlessly the stars leap back into the roles of Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett. Adil and Bilall are directors headed for big things. They took a fan favorite franchise and ran with it and gave us what fans of the movies have been waiting for seventeen years. “Bad Boys For Life” feels earned and rewarding, and not just for the sake of making one as a cash grab or a trip down memory lane.
•Note: Two characters from the last two films make appearances. But keep an eye out for a cameo from a “Bad Boys” alumni.
GRADE: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)
Bad Boys: ★★★★★ (5 out of 5)
Bad Boys II: ★★★1/2☆☆ (3 1/2 out of 5)