Movie Review: ‘Bad Boys for Life’

Directors: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah

Cast: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Joe Pantoliano, Paola Núñez, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Rafe, Jacob Scipio, Kate del Castillo

Plot: When Mike Lowrey gets targeted in a series of assassinations he sets out to find out who wants him dead and goes after them.

Review: Although it was in discussion immediately after Bad Boys II, this second sequel took 16 years to arrive and comes a whopping 25 years after the original. I have no idea why this keeps happening. Actually, I do – brand name recognition is a money-maker, but between this, Mission: Impossible, Indiana Jones, Die Hard, The Expendables, Terminator, etc., etc. we’ve found ourselves in a world where the average age of action hero is 58. Smith and Lawrence are 51 and 54 respectively, putting them on the younger side of most action films not involving superheroes these days.

We join our heroes, Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) involved in a high speed chase through Miami on their way to welcome Burnett’s grandchild into the world. They’ve been partners for 25 years and although Lawrey has not changed, Burnett is looking at retirement. Their happy-go-lucky existence is interrupted when Lowrey is shot in a drive-by attack leaving him hospitalised for months. When other law enforcement figures begin getting murdered in the same manner the two officers start looking into the case. They get teamed with a squad of younger officers trained with new skills so they can make some generational humour. This squad is actually good fun and it would be nice if they had the chance to build some character.

Unless you’re heavily invested in Will Smith quipping while Martin Lawrence shakily tries to quip back, this movie takes a very long time to pick up momentum. The victims of the assassin might as well be randomly generated names being crossed off a list for all they matter and we’ve got no idea of the motivation driving the bad guys until the third act. The result is that we spend a solid 90 minutes treading water – Will Smith roughs up bad guys while being cool and Martin Lawrence does something unfunny. Smith beating DJ Khaled’s fingers with a meat tenderiser is pretty satisfying but there’s little here that’s memorable. Things are slowed down further by Lawrence having grown so out-of-shape that the only action scene he participates in involves him sitting in a side-car. He looks out of breath for the duration of the film. Almost like they should stop making action movies with people in their 50s.

When we do learn something about the bad guys it is unexpected and an interesting turn of events. Apart from a misguided desire to turn this into a final stage twist, there’s no reason why this couldn’t have been introduced much earlier in the movie. Without wanting to give anything away, this was a really good way to escalate the conflict and it could have formed the basis of an original and interesting scenario for these characters. Without it, it feels like a generic buddy-cop action movie.

Smith and Lawrence aren’t the hot new stars that added to the success of Bad Boys, and rather than an action director with a unique style working at their peak we have two guys working to emulate something that was hot 20 years ago. It’s a competently made film, but it’s not powered by creativity or new ideas. It only exists for nostalgia.

Rating: FIVE out of TEN