Directors: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah
Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Joe Pantoliano, Vanessa Hudgens, Paola Nunez, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Kate del Castillo, Theresa Randle
Written by: Chris Bremner, (also story) Peter Craig, Joe Carnahan and (based on characters created) George Gallo.
Running Time: 123 mins
Release date: 17th January 2020
Last year I asked the question “Did we need another Toy Story?” and it turned out we did. I now ask the same question again, only this time “Do we need another Bad Boys?” 17 years after the last time this cop buddy comedy hit our screens with a completely unmemorable and massively overlong sequel to the 1995 smash hit, haven’t we moved on from the high octane action and smart one-liners? Well, we didn’t ask for a third outing, but we got it, and I am more surprised than anyone that maybe we did need it.
Isabel Aretas has escaped from prison. She has ordered her son to kill those involved in her incarceration and the death of her husband. One of the targets is Detective Mike Lowrey. Along with his partner Marcus Burnett, these Miami cops do everything together. However, when Mike survives an assassination attempt, he wants revenge. Hooking up with a new combat department called AMMO, Mike tries to find the truth, while wanting his now-retired partner back by his side.
The original film was one of the first from director Michael Bay. In those early years, his movies weren’t the monsters they are now, and Bad Boys wasn’t a terrible entry of the buddy cop thriller. It managed to mix explosive set pieces and quips aplenty, although it should have signposted things to come. By the time Bad Boys II came out, Bay had a reputation of being bombastic, and the film was a two hour plus headache, lacking any of the wit and charm of the first film. Bay, this time has stepped away from the series (although does make a cameo as a Wedding MC) and hands the reins to Belgian newcomers Adil and Bilall.
While the film has the stylish look of being in Bay’s hands still, there seems to be an air of control on offer. Yes, the set pieces are loud and impressive, whether it be a car chase through the streets of Miami or a rooftop fight to a helicopter sequence that ends up being pivotal to the finale. It may be still in your face, but at least you can follow what’s going on.
This time around, the charm is back, mainly through the relationship of Mike and Marcus. Mike has always been the ladies man while Marcus leads the family life, as a hen-pecked husband. What worked so well in the first film was that these two very different worlds collided: Mike extravagant penthouse life to Marcus’s family home. Older and certainly no wiser, these two friends (it seems work colleagues is not enough) bicker over Mike’s inability to settle down. Marcus’s decision to hang up his badge and for them to keep remembering the mantra “Bad Boys For Life” (which is one of the annoyances with this film as it is mentioned every opportunity possible).
It also throws in some neat little twists. Main characters are always a threat, there are elements of peril and heading to a finale with a real surprise that no one sees coming, which makes for the final act to be even more exciting. Yet the film does rely on the charisma of its leads. They have loads to give, especially when Mike and Marcus are on screen together, which, in the middle section, they do have a while when they are apart.
Returning to their roles, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are much older, but they still have that touch of a great double act. Smith, whose film choices of late haven’t been terrific (Gemini Man, anyone?) he needs a hit desperately and this will certainly should do it. He is cool, smooth and can handle the action scenes with ease. Lawrence, who has been absent from the screens for a while, may have added a little extra, he still has the sassiness, and his character arc goes through so much this time.
There is no way Bad Boys For Life should have worked, but it does. It’s entertaining, it’s exciting, and it has plenty to say about friendship and getting old. Will there be a fourth outing? It looks like it but only if the boys can pull in the audience. If you need to steer away from the Oscar wannabes, this does the trick. Possibly the best of the series.