Directed By Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah
Starring – Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens
The Plot – Marcus (Lawrence) and Mike (Smith) have to confront new issues (career changes and midlife crises), as they join the newly created elite team AMMO of the Miami police department to take down the ruthless Armando Armas (Jacob Scipio), the vicious leader of a Miami drug cartel.
Rated R For Strong Bloody Violence, adult Language Throughout, Sexual References, and Brief Drug Use
– Consistency. If you told me Michael Bay directed this movie, I would believe you. From a storytelling and aesthetic perspective, Arbi and Fallah don’t miss a single beat, maintaining the raw energy in personality that made the first two films a roaring good time, all the while continuing the music video style cinematography that captures the essence of South Beach. The directing duo slice off a piece of authentic seduction that stylistically never misses a single beat with its predecessors, even finding some creative methods of storyboard construction to incorporate some familiarity in the same sequences and camera movements of the series’ first two chapters. It proves that throughout three films and twenty-five years there’s a clear, cohesive vision behind the wheel, and stitches the three films tighter than most action franchises attain through various directors and character shifts.
– Tonal maturity. The comedy that we the audience can’t help but indulge in from the sizzling chemistry between its two male leads is still very much prominent in the film, but an ample element of heart overtakes the film through some dramatically challenging scenes, and makes this easily the most compelling of the trilogy, if only for the many themes of life that the script takes on. The vulnerability is key, focusing on age and life meaning as two pivotal story beats that drives the narrative fluidly. The characters feel in more danger than they ever have been previously, and it allows Smith the chance to shed some of the cool that Mike Lowery has been known for, in favor of emotional growth that these three films have taken him through. This is very much a film about confronting your past and owning up for it, and I commend screenwriters Chris Bremmer, Peter Craig, and Joe Carnahan for finally fleshing out the danger and ferocity associated with the choosing of such a job and lifestyle.
– Strong action set pieces. Without these the film would fail from the get-go, but thankfully some key decisions in framing make these some of the most visually stimulating of the entire series, and convey some of the negatives with Bay’s style of shaky camera ruthlessness. Arbi and Fallah still require shaky camera to sell the heat of their urgency, but framing is pulled much further out, depending on a wide angle lens to vividly capture everything developing in and around our protagonists. The negative impact is that these scenes also lack the intensity in anxiety that Bay captained by pressing everything so close, as well as the grand scale of bigger budgets to devilishly devour in destruction, but for my money I would rather easily convey what is taking place rather than artificially assemble a feeling in the atmosphere that oversteps its boundaries in coherent camera work. There are four different ones in “Bad Boys For Life”, and each of them stimulate without feeling repetitive or convoluted in its depiction.
– Twists. How do you keep a twenty-five year old franchise fresh? By going back to the beginning to convey to us the audience some information that we were never privy to in the first place. What this does is conjure up two different twists in the movie that not only surprised me, but also increased the stakes in ways that the first two films could only dream of. Without spoiling anything, the first one takes place halfway through the movie, and captures some of the uncertainty of the world originally illustrated from Bay that was a bit cartoonish for the second movie. It comes out of nowhere, and is the biggest gut-punch for fans who have lived and grown with these colorful characters. As for the second one, it’s a reveal for Mike that helps play into the growth that I previously mentioned. This places him into a box that we previously never have, and gives meaning to the logic in waiting so long between films to craft these subtle instances.
– Strong antagonist. Another aspect missing from the previous films was a meaningful villain to push Mike and Marcus to the edge, as well as give us the audience someone we can reason with in ideals other than money and power. Thankfully, “Bad Boys For Life” finally took its own criticisms to heart, as this film not only has a personal opposition for them in the form of two different ones, but also spends ample amount of the film’s near two hour run time to better sell them. For my money, the film is better when it’s selling the male antagonist, not so much the female one, but I can understand that both are needed to hammer home their importance to the Bad Boys rivalry. Never did I fully support their cause, but the fact that they meticulously plan every mission, and aren’t in the business of just killing people for no reason certainly proves that they are anything but the same. It’s easily the biggest test that our heroes have ever faced, and not for the reasons you’re thinking.
– New blood. When a film introduces youth to its ages old narrative, it’s sometimes meant to pass the franchise on for the next generation. This never felt the case in this movie, as the emergence of AMMO (Not the most clever name in the world) was reserved and respectable towards the focus of Smith and Lawrence, who we all know put the butts in the seats. As some of you already read, “Bad Boys 4” is in early talks already, and I can safely assure you that this third movie is anything but a passing of the torch towards that next inevitable chapter. Most of the fresh kids add a meaningful dynamic to the aspects they’re asked to help crack, but beyond that they better help even the odds against an opposition that would otherwise be too much for Mike and Marcus to take down, especially considering Marcus is retired for most of this movie. If the fourth film does come to fruition, I would be down for seeing these characters again, if only to just limit the burden of Smith and Lawrence carrying the load for another movie when we’ve already learned so much about each of their characters.
– Endless chemistry. Smith and Lawrence still very much have it, and pick up these characters sixteen years later without even a hint of rust to show for it. The contrast in their respective characters is what better sells it, as Lawrence is the comic family man who enjoys a mundane life of repetition and relaxation, while Smith still very much burns with the fire of an action-first career that breathes uncertainty every day. The film is easily at its best when these two are together, but the time apart allows them to articulate what about made them two of the biggest stars when the 1994 original captivated audiences. For Smith, the bravado charm combined with believability in physical confrontations etches out one of the last superstars of a past age of action genre. For Lawrence, his comedic timing is still razor sharp, as his delivery through some of Mike’s crazier shenanigans gave me great empathy for the character, all the while allowing me to take sinister delight in his screaming-out-loud plight.
– Tasteful rating. In keeping this R-rated, the film exposes itself for several of the more gruesomely satisfying instances of the entire franchise. In both personality dynamics and cinematic violence, the movie is batting a thousand, allowing Smith to transform into the foul-mouthed Lowery once more even after knowing the kind of genuine family man he exerts constantly off-screen, as well as shocking us with some barbaric deaths that firmly establish the seedy nightlife of beautiful Miami nightlife. This definitely felt like a callback to action films like “Heat” or “Casino”, where environment weighs so heavily into what transpires, and with no restrictions confining its possibilities, just know that “Bad Boys For Life” echoes much of the consequences that have chased Mike and Marcus throughout three films and has finally caught up.
– Action genre idiosyncrasies. While not a big deal for fans of the franchise who take comfort in familiarity, the film revels in these eye-rolling moments of action movie cliches and illogical circumstances that make the screenplay anything but a perfect addition. Beyond dumb instances like a loud humming drone flying over a drug deal with no one noticing, or open fire taking place in a heavily populated area without any victims, the film’s exaggerated moments consistently took me out of the heat of the action, and elaborated of the intrusive cinematic qualities that it simply couldn’t resist. Cars exploding after a tire is shot out, or the same dull slow motion walking in front of fire sequence that has cropped 3,567 movies to date, are just some of the features that are from a film that is doing anything but spoofing how outdated this concept feels in 2020.
– Door left open. I felt that this film was a perfect ending for the Bad Boys franchise, so it disappoints me that a post-credits scene, which inevitably sets up for a fourth film, is inserted shamelessly to soil the impact of the permanency that this film had going for it. It’s not enough that this sequence could’ve easily been inserted in the film’s closing few moments, not so much feeling a necessary epilogue after the excitement of the closing lines, but that it seems to be heading in a Fast and Furious direction that I’d rather it truly didn’t. Part of what I love about this trilogy is that each movie has purpose and tonally grows on an even path as their protagonists. So to possibly compromise that with a fourth, which couldn’t possibly be anywhere near as personally enveloping to Mike and Marcus, makes it feel desperate towards jump-starting the next generation of Bad Boys fans. The closure established in the film’s finale was heartwarmingly endearing and full of satisfaction for many character arcs, and the post-credits scene feels every bit as tacked-on as it does anticlimactic.
My Grade: 8/10 or B+