Bad Boys For Life Movie Review: Despite blemishes, the franchise's best film
The biggest strength of this film is the emotional drama that the franchise previously lacked
Let’s face the truth. The first two Bad Boys films (1995 and 2003) were hardly good films. Remember the ludicrous explosions that have now become a trademark of the films’ director Michael Bay? Filled with racial slurs, homophobic comments, cultural stereotypes, mindless violence and convoluted plots, the previous two films that did redefine the American buddy cop genre in a sense, did not exactly do too much to have you anticipate a third. But Bad Boys for Life, set 17 years after the events of the second film, is a pleasant surprise.
The film does not force in a conflict to bring Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) back in action. It’s a mistake from the past that comes back to haunt Mike. Meanwhile, Marcus, a grandpa who has planned on hanging his police boots, has to join the ride one last time to avenge bloodshed on his team’s side. Thankfully, this time, they also have a team, aptly named AMMO, that comes in handy.
Cast: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens
Director: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer, Will Smith, Doug Belgrad
The biggest strength of this film is the emotional drama that the franchise previously lacked. Things get personal this time and the stakes are higher as people, near and dear, are taken down. Also, Mike and Marcus, for the first time, have a difference of opinion on what they want to do with their lives, and it makes for some of the most sentimental scenes in the series. It’s not just the team that’s become bigger; it’s the families too, like in the Fast and Furious franchise. Remember that stoic kid Reggie (Dennis Greene) from Bad Boys 2 who takes out Marcus' daughter (Bianca Bethune) on a date? He's back and now, they are married. Moments like these connect the film to the franchise well, and directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah have managed to write a script that appeals both to fresh viewers as well as loyalists.
The film also focusses on the limitations that come with the protagonists being old, and it leads to some great humour, thanks also to the chemistry between Smith and Lawrence. Captain Conrad Howard (fan-favourite Joe Pantoliano who is great as always), calls them, "Old-ass grandpas." In another scene, Lawrence points out how they are not boys anymore, with Smith noting how the famous Bad Boys song would sound terrible, when ‘boys’ is replaced by ‘men’. Such conversational humour ensures there's no drop in entertainment.
All this is not to say that Bad Boys for Life is a perfect film. The villains (played by Kate del Castillo and Jacob Scipio) deserve more screen time, and so do the members of the AMMO team. Though racial slurs like the N-word are avoided here, there are still remnants of some white men jokes. When Marcus finds a bootload of weapons in an unexpected spot, he compares that with an angry white man's basement. I was pleasantly surprised though that the film avoids stereotypical jokes, considering the antagonists’ clan is from Mexico. The film also tries quite hard to belong in today’s time, with many mentions of relevant trends like Alexa, darknet, drones, Tesla cars, and in one scene, there’s even a joke about how hard it is for a butcher to make good money because, apparently, Miami is turning vegan.
Despite its flaws, Bad Boys for Life is a great sequel that intensifies the best bits of the franchise. Though it took 17 years for the third film to happen, talks for the fourth instalment are already happening. And if this is how it’s done again, I won’t mind it at all.