The Bad Boys from Miami are no longer boys. They are men, and according to Marcus (Martin Lawrence), it has long been time he and best friend/partner Mike (Will Smith) start acting as such. Marcus is a new grandfather and is finally putting in his retirement papers. For the eternally young Mike, capping bad guys is what he wants to do until he’s 100, though without a partner, he may have to join the new AMMO squad piloted by old flame Rita (Paola Núñez) to continue.
However, the past is ready to be unearthed. There’s someone primed to come after the 305 duo, waiting for years and decades to make Mike and Marcus’ retirements forced and permanent in a six-feet-under fashion. They’ve long rode together, and they literally might die together protecting each other’s six in this mission.
One last time/One last ride. It’s the fail safe tagline (thrown in as dialogue for good measure) for any movie franchise that has been around for a lengthy while that has a chance of ending with its latest release. The line is an easy premise to build something around, as it basically tells the story of said movie easily. Bad Boys for Life is the latest flick to use this across marketing. Who knows if this is the actual, de-facto end of the Mike and Marcus chronicles, but if it is, there’s a case to be made that it’s the best installment of the series.
Michael Bay (showing up in cameo form) is no longer credited as the director; nevertheless, his spirit lives on in Bad Boys for Life, now directed by long time collaborators Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi. They’re two young Belgian filmmakers that are likely to have big opportunities in the action genre after their contributions here. The duo clearly has chosen to keep BBFL in line with the “Bayhem” style, which includes some rapid cuts, a few hero slo-mo shots, a semi-saturated palette, and an affinity for explosions. Yet, they tamp down the excess. The quality is nothing like, say, Fury Road, John Wick, or M:I-Fallout, and the moments that push the elder 50+ y.o’s (not everyone sips from the fountain of youth like Keanu Reeves and Tom Cruise) beyond what they’re capable of physically doing are masked with not-so-seamless CGI/green screen. Overall, a few set-pieces register as thrilling, in large part because they are simply visibly coherent. Having steady composer Lorne Balfe helps, too.
Where Bad Boys for Life beats out its predecessors is in…the script? With the combined efforts of Joe Carnahan, Peter Craig, Chris Bremner, and the influence of Smith as a producer, this third movie carries a surprising smidge of depth. Additionally, it’s darker than expected, driven home by brief jolts of unexpected violence and less comical turns by villains convincingly played by Kate del Castillo and Jacob Scipio. No, BBFL doesn’t do away with the comedy quips, they exist in full force and have a relatively successful laugh rate. It’s just that there’s a concerted focus to look at the fact that any misdeeds eventually come to light, especially if done recklessly. A third act twist found in any other film that takes place would be unbelievably bad, yet somehow in this universe, it is very believable. To do one better, it provides context as to why Lowery is as unhinged as he’s shown to be in the prior time spent with him before, although the script is content in absolving certain actions committed by an individual (think in the vein of The Fate of the Furious). Salud mi familia, I guess.
Despite paper-thin scripts, it was the chemistry of Smith and Lawrence that first and foremost carried Bad Boys 1 and 2 to watchability. Their bond nearly twenty years later hasn’t changed, and both use the age they now possess into an evolution of their characters. They look like they’re having fun throughout, a crucial element that could have easily befelled the movie if either of them was not. The AMMO squad is used to the right level, a subtle commentary of the analytics versus gut instinct/eye test debate often found in NBA and sport circles (spoiler alert: Both are needed). Núñez, in particular, is a breath of fresh air, and maybe this role is a breakout for her after her notable work in a sneaky good second season of The Purge. More connective tissue is present courtesy of the returns of Theresa Randle and Joe Pantoliano. Notable bummers? The lack of suitable reference to Gabrielle Union’s character, and no nod to one of 2003’s best songs in Shake Ya Tailfeather. Ask almost anyone what they think of first after Lawrence, Smith, and explosions, and the answer will always be Nelly, P. Diddy, and Murphy Lee.
Whoosah. With the projected opening box office take and general good audience vibes following Bad Boys for Life, Bad Boys 4 is already in early stages of production. Shit just got real, indeed.
Photo credits go to cinemablend.com, cnnespanol.cnn.com, and http://www.mirror.co.uk.
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