Saturday, June 1, 2024

Review: "BAD BOYS FOR LIFE" Takes a Bit to Come to Life

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 24 of 2024 (No. 1968) by Leroy Douresseaux

Bad Boys for Life (2020)
Running time:  124 minutes (2 hours, 4 minutes)
MPA – R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, sexual references and brief drug use
DIRECTORS:  Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah
WRITERS:  Chris Bremner, Peter Craig & Joe Carnahan; from a story by Peter Craig & Joe Carnahan (based on characters created by George Gallo)
PRODUCERS:  Doug Belgrad, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Will Smith
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Robrecht Heyvaert (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: Dan Lebental and Peter McNulty
COMPOSER:  Lorne Balfe


Starring:  Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Paola Núñez, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Kate del Castillo, Nicky Jam, Joe Pantoliano, Jacob Scipio, and Theresa Randle

Bad Boys for Life is a 2020 American action, crime, and buddy cop film directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, better known as “Adil & Bilall.”  It is the third entry in the Bad Boys film series, which began with 1995's Bad Boys, and it is a sequel to Bad Boys II (2003).  In Bad Boys for Life, Detectives Lowrey and Burnett, the “Bad Boys,” face off against a mysterious killer whose campaign of revenge is centered on Lowrey.

Bad Boys for Life opens in Mexico at the Santa Maria Ixcotel Prison.  There, Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo) escapes with the help of her son, Armando (Jacob Scipio).  Isabel is the son of the late cartel kingpin, Benito Aretas, and she wants revenge against the men who helped take down her husband twenty-four years ago.  Armando, a highly-skilled criminal, savvy fighter, and vicious killer, is the instrument of her revenge.

One of those men is Detective Lt. Michael “Mike” Lowrey (Will Smith), and Armando comes close to killing him.  Mike is a hard man to keep down, and he wants payback.  His boss, Captain Conrad Howard (Joe Pantoliano), wants Mike to let a new, tech-driven police unit, called “AMMO” (Advance Miami Metro Operations), hunt the shooter.  Mike doesn't like that, especially as his former girlfriend, Lieutenant Rita Secada (Paolo Nunez), is head of AMMO.  Even worse, Mike's longtime partner, Det. Lt. Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), has retired and wants to stay that way.  But when things get worse, will the Bad Boys be forced to unite for one last ride?

I still laugh at the fact that the film that became 1995's Bad Boys was originally written for actor-comedians, Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz.  Bad Boys would go on to become a signature entry in the filmographies of both eventual Oscar-winning actor, Will Smith (King Richard), and Martin Lawrence, who would go on to star in such films as Big Momma's House (2000) and Wild Hogs (2007).  The duo eventually reunited for 2003's Bad Boys II.  Because the fourth entry in the Bad Boys series, Bad Boys: Ride or Die (2024), is about to be released, I decided to go back and watch and review the one film in the franchise that I had not seen in its entirety, Bad Boys for Life (2020).

A close friend told me that he thought Bad Boys for Life was bad.  I did find the first hour to be rather poorly developed.  After all, Lowrey and Burnett seem pretty slow in figuring out that the shootings of Lowrey and others are obviously related.  All these veteran cops and young, smart, new-school law enforcement are working on this case, and they are as clueless as can be.

However, in the film's second hour, directors Adil & Bilall make the most of their creative cohorts, especially their stunt coordinators, lighting department, and film editors in order to deliver a film that is fast-paced and slickly violent.  The filmmakers also bring out all of the colors and life in both the Miami and Mexican locations  Adil & Bilall do their best to summon the spirit of Michael Bay, the director of the first two films.  I wonder what he thought of the new directors' homage to his style.  I must say that Adil & Bilall eschew Bay's over-the-top theatrics for a slick visual, action style that is more focused on the characters than on sweeping shots and a deafening score and soundtrack.

In some ways, Bad Boys for Life is this series' best entry.  Yes, Martin Lawrence looks a little pudgy in the face, but his comic timing and humor eventual rev up.  Will Smith still looks lithesome and on the edge.  While it starts clunky, Bad Boys for Life doesn't show its age, but it does show that – surprisingly – there is still life in these cinematic bad boys.

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Saturday, June 1, 2024

2021 Image Awards (NAACP):  1 win: “Outstanding Motion Picture” and 1 nomination: “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Will Smith)

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