clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

‘Bad Boys for Life’: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence keep up their chemistry

Though it sticks to the buddy-cop playbook, threequel worth seeing for the stars’ great give-and-take.

While Marcus (Martin Lawrence) has had enough of the danger, longtime police partner Mike (Will Smith) keeps working the streets in “Bad Boys for Life.”
Columbia Pictures

In one of the many shootouts in “Bad Boys for Life,” the camera pans up to show us a beautiful, stained glass cupola that has remained pristine despite the rest of the structure having fallen into disrepair.

What do you think will eventually become of the stained glass?

A. It will shatter into a hundred pieces.

B. It will shatter into a thousand pieces.

C. It will shatter into too many pieces to count.

D. It will remain unbroken and will become the centerpiece of the building when it is restored to its original glory.

If you answered A., B., or C., congratulations: You’ve seen action movies before!

In recent years we’ve had a mini-trend of sequels a long time coming, e.g., 2015’s “Mad Max Fury Road” (three decades after “Beyond Thunderdome”); 2017’s “Blade Runner 2049” (35 years since the original); 2018’s “Mary Poppins Returns” (a whopping 54 years).

Add to that list “Bad Boys for Life,” which comes 25 years after the original and 17 years after “Bad Boys II,” crowned by yours truly as the absolute worst movie of 2003.

So no, I wasn’t pining for a threequel, despite the considerable appeal of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Also, it feels like the bullets have long since sailed for an R-rated, logic-defying, loud and violent buddy cop drama/comedy.

And yet here I am giving three stars to “Bad Boys for Life,” even though it DOES have the familiar look of so many films of the genre, from the sweeping-camera-over-the-water moves to the stunt-person chase scenes and shootouts when there’s never any concern about collateral civilian damage to the main characters cracking jokes and trading insults even as gunfire rings out everywhere.

So, what’s the upside? We’ll start with Smith and Lawrence, who are great together in the return of Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett, partners now for some 25 years who are still badass crime fighters, though they have slowed down some. Mike is dyeing his goatee and Marcus can’t see a thing without his glasses.

But Mike is still all about the Bad Boys for Life-style, whereas Marcus (who has become a grandfather) is ready to trade in his badge for a BarcaLounger. He’s done with all the excitement and danger.

Marcus vows to stay retired, even after Mike is gunned down by a mysterious, motorcycle-riding assassin and vows to gain revenge on the man who came oh so close to killing him.

There’s some comic-relief juxtaposition of the dapper Mike hitting the streets of Miami to crack some skulls and rustle up some leads while Marcus kicks around home in his robe, microwaving snacks and watching trash TV and getting on the last nerve of his wife (a returning Theresa Randle).

Of course, we know Marcus will eventually get back in the game.

Joe Pantoliano’s brusque but lovable Captain Howard is back, and good ol’ “Joey Pants” takes a big bite out of every scene he’s in and kills in his usual style. The stunning Paola Nunez is Rita, a former love interest of Mike’s who heads Miami P.D.’s elite, cutting-edge AMMO unit, which includes Vanessa Hudgens as a tough and resourceful sharp-shooter who greatly admires Mike; Charles Melton as a hotshot who disrespects the “old man,” and Alexander Ludwig as a Thor-looking dude who prefers to stay in the surveillance van and concentrate on the tech side because he abhors violence.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around Kate de Castillo’s Isabel escaping a Mexican prison in gruesome, bloody fashion, and ordering her killing machine of a son (Jacob Scipio) to go to Miami and gun down everyone responsible for putting away her late husband, the leader of … wait for it … a powerful cartel.

Quick sidebar about Isabel, who mutters black-magic curses under her breath and ruthlessly and rather easily slashes her way out of the prison. Why did she wait some 25 years to escape?

Another quick sidebar, this time concerning Mike’s penthouse apartment in Miami: How much do admittedly legendary Miami police detectives rake in? Mike’s place would be $4 mil, easily.

Anyway. Bad boys, bad boys…

(And yes, the 1987 song by Inner Circle is referenced multiple times by Mike and Marcus, and gets heavy play on the soundtrack, and it’s still one of the most infectious hits of all time.)

The credited writers of the “Bad Boys for Life” story include newcomer Chris Bremner and veterans Peter Craig (who wrote the award-level script for “The Town”) and Joe Carnahan (“Smokin’ Aces,” “The Grey”), and though we don’t know who wrote what, there is a kind of stitched-together, patchwork-quilt quality to the film. (All of a sudden, quite late, the four biggest laughs in the movie come in rapid-fire fashion.)

An attempt at a Big Reveal is ludicrous albeit wildly entertaining, on a couple of levels. Almost nothing that takes place in the last 20 minutes of this movie could ever transpire in anything resembling the known universe.

By then, you’ll have long since either checked out or decided to strap on the popcorn bag, put reality on hold and just go with it.

Whatcha gonna do.