Review by Sean Boelman
Twenty-five years since the original film and seventeen years after its sequel, Bad Boys for Life reunites stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence for more action-packed hijinks in the streets of Miami. However, without notorious filmmaker Michael Bay at the helm, this new entry is much more stylish, and as a result, even more entertaining.
The movie follows Miami PD Detectives Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett as they go on a hunt for a killer connected to Lowery’s past. This story is admittedly conventional and by-the-book, ultimately holding very few surprises no matter how twisty it seems to think it is, but as a tongue-in-cheek parody of the procedural genre by which it is so obviously inspired, the film succeeds on a grand level.
Even more so than the first two films, this movie emphasizes the comedic elements of the script, cashing in on the excellent chemistry between Smith and Lawrence. Although some jokes are nostalgia-fueled re-hashes of previous gags, like an intimate conversation between the two stars being made unintentionally public, there are plenty of witty one-liners and slapstick gags throughout. (And as an added bonus, the film isn’t as passive-aggressively racist as Bad Boys II.)
Also impressive is that the movie plays into the characters a lot better than the previous two films. The characters’ arc in this movie feels like less of an afterthought, as the whole film revolves around Lowery and Burnett as they come to the realization that the ways of the Bad Boys are going out of style. (But naturally there’s still plenty of room for some old-school a*s-whooping.)
Of course, Smith and Lawrence are great as always, and this script allows them to bounce off of each other constantly. Both look like they are enjoying themselves immensely, and that helps make the movie much more enjoyable. The new additions to the cast, Paola Nuñez, Vannessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, and Charles Melton as a new high-tech unit in the Miami PD, are all entertaining and provide for some comedic moments. Kate del Castillo is also perfectly cast as the antagonist.
Perhaps the greatest improvement in this film over its predecessors is that it features higher quality action. Although Bayhem does have its particular charms, it often feels like an assault on the senses. Directors Adil El Arabi and Bilali Fallah make the action sequences feel a lot more well-planned and sleek as opposed to Bay’s randomly blowing things up, and the result is a handful of setpieces that are truly memorable.
The cinematography by Robrecht Heyvaert is undeniably kinetic and lends a lot of energy to the action sequences. The use of color in the movie is also quite interesting, giving the film a much more modern feel. And as expected from the series, the movie features a killer soundtrack with tunes both new and old to underscore the action.
Both the most well-made and most entertaining entry into the series, Bad Boys for Life shows that this series is still very much alive. Hopefully it won’t take another seventeen years for Lowery and Burnett to have another adventure, but it seems like that wait allowed the script to get to its best possible form.
Bad Boys for Life opens in theaters on January 17.