Bad Boys for Life (2020)
Directors: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah
Writers: Chris Bremner, Peter Craig, and Joe Carnahan
Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Paola Nunez, Kate del Castillo, Nicky Jam, and Joe Pantoliano
Plot: A mysterious woman from Mike Lowery’s past is trying to have him killed.
Review: Let me start off this review as honestly as possible. I am not a Bad Boys fan. I did not see the first two movies until literally just about a week ago. I did not like them. I thought they were outdated, overlong, and full of enough Michael Bay-isms for me to type up a CinemaSins video. That all having been said… I enjoyed this one. And… I think it has to do with taking the franchise from Michael Bay. As a result, everything felt more real, funnier, and actually kind of emotional.
I am not just going to shit on Michael Bay. I promise. But, let me do it for a little bit, ok? It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Mr. Bay. In fact, he’s one of my least favorite directors. I consider him the embodiment of a teenage boy’s fantasies. He can’t just make a straight action flick. It’s gotta be three hours long, filled with immature jokes, boobs, fast cars, explosions, and more American flags than you can find at a Walmart. Granted, his Bad Boys films were towards the beginning of his career so he wasn’t quite at his worst yet. They were still pretty bad though, especially II. Now, take that and add 20 years for that kind of humor to age and those movies don’t stand a chance for me. I was mostly tuned out while watching them on Netflix recently. They were in one ear out the other entertainment.
I wish instead that Michael Bay made movies like Bad Boys for Life. Because it still has all of that stuff. It’s just toned down to a more manageable degree. It’s not like this franchise is now a work of art. It’s still very immature and very silly. However, it feels more real. The jokes are more organic. The characters are given the chance to shine. The action scenes feel more realistic, even though they are just as ridiculous. Overall, by getting somehow slightly more grown up, the franchise just feels different and better.
Of course, this could have to do with the two leads being older now too. They aren’t trying to be cool anymore. Will Smith is cool because that’s who he is. He doesn’t have to try anymore. The dude is just naturally charismatic and he has been for decades now. Meanwhile, Martin Lawrence has settled into his comedic roles. He’s been naturally funny for a long time now. Maybe it’s just me, but I think the confidence that comes through experience is on full display here. While the original two movies had these two trying to be heightened versions of themselves, here they are allowed to just be and the movie is much better off for it.
I also really enjoyed the new characters that this threequel set up. The whole B-team called Ammo is a lot of fun. Each of those characters seem like someone you’d want to spend more time with. It’s a nice, diverse group of younger cops. Most of the time when a franchise sets up something like that, it feels cheap. Like Jeremy Renner in Mission Impossible. It just felt like they were there to take the lead’s place. However, I liked this group a lot. I would love to see more of them in the fourth movie and a spinoff seems reasonable after that. (Not to mention that more Vanessa Hudgens is never a bad thing.)
Like I said though, Bad Boys for Life is far from a masterpiece. It’s still got a lot of the Bay-isms. They’re just toned down. However, the third act is almost straight from a Michael Bay movie. The plot gets extremely cheesy with a really unnecessary twist. The action is ridiculous. And you lose sight of the characters for a bit. I’m glad it wasn’t stretched out for too much longer because they were really starting to lose me. Luckily, they seemed to know just when to cut it off. Which, again, I’m not sure Michael Bay knows how to do.
TL;DR: Bad Boys for Life is a Michael Bay movie without Michael Bay and that only makes it better.
Grade: 7/10 (Good)