Movie review: Smith and Lawrence reunite for an action-packed ‘Bad Boys for Life’
When “Bad Boys,” the cop-buddy film directed by Hollywood bad boy Michael Bay, and starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, was released 25 years ago, it took in just over $141 million at the box office. When “Bad Boys II,” with the same directing-acting combo came out 17 years ago, ticket sales were $273 million. I didn’t see either of those films until a week ago, when I sat down for a double feature on my living room couch.
And I liked them! A lot!! It was easy to see why they were such big hits. Both featured boatloads of action, breakneck editing, gobs of handleable violence, a steady thread of humor, snappy banter, a lush and richly saturated color scheme, and a believable and loving camaraderie between the two leads.
Over the years, I had also become - with the exception of his dizzyingly unwatchable “Transformers” films - an unabashed fan of Michael Bay. When I discovered he wasn’t directing “Bad Boys for Life,” and that it would be co-directed by the unfamiliar (to me) Adil El Arbi and Bilail Fallah, I had some negative thoughts.
But 10 minutes into it, and already caught up by all of the action, fast editing, violence, humor, camaraderie, etc., I knew I was in good hands. About 20 minutes later, when Michael Bay had a cameo as a wedding emcee, and I realized he had given the film his blessing (and later found out he produced it), I was settled in for the ride.
In fact, it opens with a ride - a wild one, with Mike Lowrey (Smith) at the wheel of his Porsche, zigzagging through a high-speed police chase in Miami, with his partner Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) in the passenger seat, screaming for him to slow down. But it turns out not to be a chase. It’s a high-speed ride to a hospital, where Marcus’ daughter is giving birth to his first grandson.
And so begins the story of what appears to be the dissolution of the partnership. Mike and Marcus have been together all these years, but now Marcus is considering retirement “because family is all that matters.” To which Mike, with no thoughts of retirement, replies, “I’ll be running down criminals till I’m 100!”
Meanwhile, somewhere in Mexico, there’s a bloody jailbreak, a reunion of a vindictive mother and her murderous son, and a vengeful plan that includes making Mike the target of some bullets. With that plotline in play, it’s safe to say that retirement is at least temporarily put on the backburner.
There’s some dark, serious stuff going on here, but the writers and directors make sure to include a fair share of fun in the mix, and there’s some funny crosscutting between action-man Mike still keeping up his old lifestyle and old-fashioned family man Marcus settling into his new one. To clarify, Mike wants revenge on those who tried to off him, and Marcus wants to enjoy life with his grandson.
Joe Pantoliano returns for his third portrayal of the overly excitable Captain Howard, a man who regularly needs a swig of Pepto Bismol whenever Mike goes rogue on him. Series newcomers Paola Nuñez, as the head of a special police team, and Kate del Castillo and Jacob Scipio, as the malevolent mother-son duo, are perfectly cast. But as with the first two entries, it’s the onscreen relationship between Smith and Lawrence, the peanut butter and jelly of cop-buddy movies (that’s a compliment), that makes the film work.
Their characters are similar in that they’re committed to their jobs. They’re different because ... well, Mike drives that Porsche, and Marcus drives his wife’s Nissan Quest. The nice thing about them playing these action roles again after all this time is that they’re convincing as a couple of guys who are too long in the tooth to do it, but can still do it. Will there be a “Bad Boys 4?” The script makes it feasible, but let’s see how well this one does at the box office (my guess is very well).
Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Bad Boys for Life”
Written by Chris Bremner, Peter Craig, Joe Carnahan; directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilail Fallah
With Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Joe Pantoliano, Paola Nuñez, Kate de Castillo, Jacob Scipio