The new entry in the “Bad Boys” franchise, “Bad Boys for Life,” does not feature Michael Bay at the helm. Even so, the man known for his particular brand of action—affectionately or not, known as “Bayhem”—is certainly in evidence here after having directed the first two films. Beyond offering him a cameo, directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, have employed the same ethos to the new film that Bay used in its predecessors.
What does that mean? It means that “Bad Boys for Life” is big and loud and over-the-top. It means that Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as Miami Police Detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, respectively, are never at a loss for words even when they’re at death’s door. It means that there are a whole lot of explosions, oodles of music, off-color jokes, fast cars, lots of blood, and the glitz & glamour of Miami.
One of the most interesting aspects of El Arbi and Fallah’s helming of the film is that that it doesn’t feel as though this is some knockoff version of Bay. Truth be told, Bay’s bad films feel like that, but “Bad Boys for Life” manages to hit all the right notes and succeeds in spades.
It is, in the briefest summation, absolutely everything one wants from such a movie. The action is great and the humor is plentiful. The story is good enough to keep the viewer invested without ever truly taxing one’s brain. Everyone can understand the personal nature of the villains’ assault on Mike (and therefore Marcus) without ever becoming bogged down by the actions of Isabel Aretas (Kate Del Castillo) and her son, Armando Armas (Jacob Scipio). Things almost do become overwhelmingly emotional during the climactic moments of the film, but there is enough fire and blood and destruction surrounding it all that El Arbi and Fallah get away with it.
While the directors unquestionably do their job and the script from Chris Bremner and Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan has all the twists and turns and joke and violence one wants, no small amount of the success of the movie is due to the work of Smith and Lawrence. To say that each of the men is at the top of their game here is an understatement. They are, 25 years after the first “Bad Boys” and 17 years after “Bad Boys II,” just as lively and energetic and intense as they ever have been. Without the camaraderie between Mike and Marcus the movie wouldn’t work, and Smith and Lawrence sell it.
It may be a little too much to have the next generation new cops (the AMMO team) right there at Mike and Marcus’s tail for so much of the story, the sense of a franchise handoff from Mike and Marcus to the AMMO squad is inescapable. However, that crew—played by Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, and Paola Nunez—do add something to the mix as does the old vs. young clash. Additionally, as silly as this sounds, there is an element of believability in the notion that Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) would have young, squad ready to perform cutting edge police duties as his workhorses age out and time moves on.
To be sure, there is nothing new here in “Bad Boys for Life,” not the old guys aging out, the lost loves, the young cops pushing their way up to make a name for themselves, and certainly not the “this time it’s personal” moments. Not even the chases and set pieces feel very new or different. No, what “Bad Boys for Life” offers is a distillation of all of it. It is, perhaps, the purest form these various elements with which we are so familiar, and as silly as the hint about what the next movie in the franchise may be, I’ll be there for it.
Who wouldn’t want to spend more time with Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett?
photo credit: Sony Pictures