“Bad Boys Bad Boys, whatcha gonna do?”
Here’s an idea, let’s make Bad Boys into the next Fast & Furious.
That seems to be the mandate for Bad Boys for Life, which is one of those movies fans of the 1995 buddy cop flick and its 2003 sequel have been begging for, but not more than co-star Martin Lawrence. Now they have it, with Lawrence and Will Smith much older and grayer, but they’re still quick with the trigger and a one-liner, making for a surprisingly exciting and funny sequel that shows there’s still a lot of bullets left in the chamber.
But yeah, they’re totally trying to turn this into Fast & Furious.
Hype cars, hot women, cartoonish villains, an emphasis on family, more characters, over-the-top action, and the promise of bigger cases to come are the fuel that drives Bad Boys for Life. Don’t be fooled by any “one last ride” nonsense, assuming this is a hit there will be plenty more. Smith is back as Detective Mike Lowery, he of the inexplicably expensive tastes for a police officer (surely his trust fund has run out?), with Lawrence as his ride-or-die partner Marcus Burnett. After 25 years of busting heads, and apparently not getting promoted very much (Shouldn’t one of these dudes be a Captain or something?), Marcus is ready to call it a career and spend time with his growing family. Mike’s still into his cowboy shit, and isn’t ready to hang up his gun, even when somebody tries to put him in the ground.
One of the things that separates this Bad Boys from others, and certainly makes it a step up from the ridiculous Bad Boys 2, is the personal stake for Mike. A past conviction comes back to haunt him in a big way, and suddenly the legendarily bulletproof cop isn’t so invulnerable. Nobody expects a deep exploration of Mike’s brush with mortality but it’s more than I expected, and at least acted with some degree of examination by Smith who always brings it no matter the role. We’re so used to Mike thriving in the chaos that it’s at least different to see another side, while Marcus is just as cautious as ever. The dynamic is a bit worn but it still works.
It’s strange to have a Bad Boys movie that isn’t directed by Michael Bay. His explosive style of Bayhem was literally established with the first movie, for better or for worse. In his place are Belgian filmmakers
Adil El Arbi
and Bilall Fallah, who have clearly been reading from Bay’s playbook but ratchet the violence up to gruesome levels. These films always had a high body count, pinpoint car chases, and wild gun battles, which are replicated pretty well here, along with some slick slo-mo transition scenes. None of the stunt choreography is bad, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that sticks out. When the most memorable scene is the classic “Shit just got real” Bad Boys 360 shot, you know this is still Bay’s house even when he ain’t home.
Adding to the Fast & Furious feel of this latest entry is the introduction of AMMO, a specialized high-tech force led by an aggressive team millennials you would only find in big-budget Hollywood movies. Their base looks like something out of Justice League, and holds armored vehicles that would’ve made more sense in The Rise of Skywalker. The AMMO squad all have distinct, one-note personalities perfect for future appearances and spinoffs. Vanessa Hudgens is the stalwart Kelley, with the heavily-muscled Alexander Ludwig as the team’s unlikely tech guy/bruiser, while Riverdale standout Charles Melton is the obnoxious ladies man, Rafe. Their team leader Rita, played by Paola Nunez, shares a past with Mike and might be the woman who finally gets him to slow down.
But these are Bad Boys…for Life!!! There is no such thing as slowing down. Who knows how long this can keep going, but Bad Boys for Life delivers what fans of these movies have been waiting for and will want to see again, hopefully without the sixteen-year gap.