Bad Boys for Life Will Smith Martin Lawrence

Year: 2020
Director(s): Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah
Writer(s): Chris Bremner, Peter Craig, Joe Carnahan
Region of Origin: USA
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Rating: R
Color, 124 mins

Synopsis: The boys are back. 

Following a slate of horrible legacy sequels/reboots, Bad Boys for Life is a film that actually earns its existence. Though we weren’t exactly pining for it, it’s still a satisfying addition to the series’ storied legacy. Directors Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi have returned with something special, namely a self critique of the series’ violence and what it means for its characters. Despite missing the style and irreverence of Michael Bay’s efforts, this installment absolutely works. Fallah and El Arbi’s film is still ultra violent and cheeky, but puts makes things more personal than ever. There’s an emphasis on the meaning of family, pushing Marcus and Mike’s friendship to the ultimate, late life test. 

After 25 years on the force, Miami detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are confronting mortality more than ever. Marcus has just become a grandfather, while Mike tries to avoid the fact that he may not always be so bulletproof. A failed assassination on Mike, and other hits on other targets throughout the city send shockwaves across Miami. It seems a part of Mike’s past has returned with a vengeance. As a mysterious presence threatens to throw the town into disarray, Mike and Marcus prepare to lose it all in order to protect what they love. 

This chapter wins where others would fail because it isn’t just trying merely aping what’s come before. With a solid foundation laid out, this film focuses on character with sincerity. It never sacrifices the absurd banter or situations we love from the series, but finds ways to make them matter. This chapter truly reflects on why previous chapters worked, and why in this day and age, it’s important to view the past in a new light. With transitioning from bad boys to good men as the film’s crux, Fallah and El Arbi take the series to new places. It’s a bit more structured and purposeful, juxtaposing where Mike and Marcus have ended up after all this time, while still finding ways to throw them into a hellfire of bullets and gore. In terms of pushing things forward, the addition of a younger, tech-based crew also aids, injecting an ensemble of young blood and high-tech gadgets to aid in the action. This definitely isn’t Michael Bay’s Bad Boys, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a film that grows the series up with its audience. 

Bad Boys for Life review Will Smith Martin Lawrence

Of course, the series’ backbone remains the one-two punch of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Both of them act as though there hasn’t been two decade plus gap. The script and actors use this to their advantage. Both tackle their respective roles with more weight, giving their electric chemistry a strong backbone. Lowrey’s story requires that Smith confront his character in a way that’s poignant, while Lawrence’s Burnett embodies the film’s heart. The latter has a story that almost shouldn’t work but does, reflecting on a lifetime of violence in a way that’s silly but sobering all the same. In terms of freshness, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Vanessa Hudgens and Paola Nunez head up AMMO. They’re a high-tech division of the MPD who work alongside our two leads in a way that’s fun and exciting. They each bring a unique vibe to everything and are well integrated within the story. As the film’s baddies, Kate del Castillo and Jacob Scipio play a mother/son duo who are what the movie needs. 

Bad Boys for Life scratches a very specific itch and plays to its strengths. Growing up the story is commendable, and seeing Smith and Lawrence reunite is absolutely worth the price of admission. This is a rare sequel that doesn’t settle for bare minimum or empty call backs, but one that takes the opportunity to push things forward.