Film Review - Bad Boys for Life

Martin Lawrence (right) and Will Smith return for the third installment of the franchise with “Bad Boys for Life.”

I had never seen a “Bad Boys” movie until a few weeks ago. Granted, I was in my early teens when the first one came out, so I probably would have struggled with getting my mom to let me go to the R-rated films in the first place. But, the buddy cop movies with comedians and explosions just didn’t appeal to me.I was older but had even less interest in “Bad Boys II” when it came out in 2003. No, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I finally watched the first two films.

And, they were OK. I mean, they had plenty of explosions, violence and one-liners. Lots of slow-motion sequences. Apparently, the first film is what made Will Smith a star or something like that. But, the first two films can mostly be summed up in a few phrases: Violence. F-bombs. Women. Drug cartels.

Boom. There’s the first two “Bad Boys” films. They weren’t horrible, but I think the stylistic choices were given more attention than the actual storyline.

And now, more than two decades later, we have the third installment: “Bad Boys for Life.” It might be the best of the three.

The film focuses on Mike Lowery (Smith) and his partner Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), two Miami PD officers that have been working together for 25 years. Mike wants to keep pushing until he just can’t anymore, but Marcus is starting to ponder retirement … again. They’re getting older, softer and slower, and while Mike can’t see any future besides being a bad boy, Marcus wants to spend time chilling, watching his grandbaby grow up and just getting much-needed rest.

Nothing is ever that simple, though. A new villain in town, Armando (Jacob Scipio), and his jailbird mother, Isabel (Kate del Castillo), have plans for Mike and every poor sap that had a hand in putting her away. He takes down Mike, the “bulletproof cop,” in a vicious drive-by shooting. I guess they’re all vicious, but you know what I mean.

As Mike lies in a hospital bed fighting for his life, Marcus retires. He’s by Mike’s side every day, wiping the drool from his mouth and dying the gray out of his beard. My words might make it sound funny, but it’s an incredibly touching scene. Mike wants vengeance and blood, but Marcus has chosen a more peaceful way of life. He refuses to help Mike until something happens that changes both of their lives forever.

Y’all, I really liked this film. My boyfriend noted that it was probably because this one had an actual storyline while the first two films, well, created some dialogue and plot points to throw in between the dead bodies and explosions.

Mike’s character is given actual depth in “Bad Boys For Life.” He’s not just the swaggering cop that would rather shoot you than ask questions. We see a vulnerability and fragility to his character, and it’s not just because he nearly dies. Marcus has always had a bit more nuance to him. He’s the husband, father and fraidy cat that fights the urge to vomit when he sees a dead body, hates rats and probably wets himself a little during a car chase. He’s got heart, and he cares about what he’s putting out into the world. We’ve seen the character grow and develop through three movies, and it’s been a wonderful journey to watch.

Mike’s growth isn’t quite so remarkable. He’s more style than substance. Flashy cars, expensive apartments, designer clothes and plenty of lovers. “Bad Boys For Life” hints at the idea that Mike might be settling down as the years have crept up on him. A coworker, Rita (Paola Nuñez), seems to be one of his love interests that left a mark. It’s clear she’s hung up on him, but his own feelings toward her aren’t as clear-cut.

Rita is the head of the AMMO division at Miami PD. It’s an elite squad that uses high-tech tactics rather than relying on brute strength. Drones, surveillance and all that. They’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty. They also might as well be speaking a foreign language when trying to explain their methods to Mike, who is more like a bull in a china shop.

They’re a welcome addition to the franchise, though. Rafe (Charles Melton), Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens) and Dorn (Alexander Ludwig) are actually charming little additions, which isn’t a phrase I would normally utter for a “Bad Boys” movie.

The film manages to pay homage to its predecessors. Michael Bay has a cameo — 1995’s “Bad Boys” was his first film — and Reggie, the young man who wanted to date Marcus’ daughter and was thoroughly terrorized by the “bad boys,” is back. Joe Pantoliano reprises his role as Capt. Howard. There are little bits and pieces throughout that add to the franchise nostalgia.

The film is one of the highest-grossing January releases of all time, and a lot of that is due to the magic between Smith and Lawrence. Smith might be the bigger star, but they both shine equally on this screen. The chemistry between the two is fantastic and feels natural.

“Bad Boys For Life” shows signs that this franchise might be ready to grow up. If this is what they have in store for us, I’ll gladly welcome any additional outings. If this is the end, though, at least they’re going out on top.

Amanda Greever is a former editor, designer and writer at The Daily Times. She now works in public relations. Contact her at amandagreever@gmail.com.

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