Bad Boys! Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do after nearly 16 years away from the big screen? It’s an honest question, the question I had in my mind before seeing the film because I think it’s important that a revived film series silences its critics by showing a willingness to evolve. I can’t see any big steps taken, even with Michael Bay stepping down as director, but Bad Boys for Life has shown me that the fun element in buddy cop/action films is still strong as there is a lot of entertainment to be found here.
The fun begins with the immediate reintroduction of Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) who after all this time still know how to rebound off each other’s performance. The dialogue written for them is a little rough around the edges, but they both have the natural ability to deliver it, so it sends off the write signals. Their chemistry makes most witty lines land with audiences and when the story takes a serious turn, they can make the stakes feel high.
The characters themselves have undergone a lot of work to make them feel more compelling and not just two people you see in gunfights and chases. There’s a little bit of family interwoven in their lives, Mike still wants the high-risk lifestyle of the two films while Marcus now has a family to look after and wants to retire from said life. Even the villains are written to make them less disposable. Armando (Jacob Scipio) is the mother of Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo), the co-runner of the Aretas cartel who are revenge type villains without giving too much away. Jacob Scipio, in particular, I have to give full credit for an intimidating performance.
With Michael Bay gone (except for a quick cameo), it was time for a new coat of paint to brush over the action sequences. For the most part, the action scenes of the previous Bad Boys films were high octane, but the usual Michael Bay-style got in the way of extra fulfillment. The quick cuts, the high contrast of the frame, etc. didn’t serve the adrenaline of the scene any justice. In the case of Bad Boys for Life, the keys have been handed to new-ish directors Adil El Arib and Bilall Fallah who have done a terrific job in turning the problems with the series’ actions scenes around. They’re much smoother so the audience can really soak in the adrenaline and better choreographed too.
I think anyone who enjoys the previous Bad Boys films is going to be very happy with how Bad Boys for Life turned out, however, I do think the complaints won’t be too far from similar. Michael Bay is gone, but there are still traces of his style left in. Everyone always has perfect hair and makeup and scenes are shot in a high contract that makes features more overexposed. I felt after such a long time away from the screen and with fresh, eager directors wanting to make a name for themselves, I hoped that they would have enforced their own style on the series, make it truly renewed. I guess the style has been left in just so it can satisfy long-time fans of the series, but for a style that comes with controversy and criticism, to become something new would have been a braver move.
I hinted earlier that we have a revenge style plot in Bad Boys for Life and the characters can execute it well enough, but it does have some weak material. The way the story plays out is all over the place, one sequence, for example, could be the concluding scene in any other film, but it’s placed in the first act. I think the writers needed to judge the level of drama a scene holds because it’s very mismanaged in this film, so much so that the audience could be thrown off their sense of timing. Giving the writing some praise, they do follow the traditional trilogy formula.
As well as getting reacquainted with old characters, Bad Boys for Life introduces you to a bunch of new ones which include Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens), Dorn (Alexander Ludwig) and Rafe (Charles Melton) to name a few, all involved as the tech-savvy group AMMO. Although they don’t add too much to the story, they are there to serve as a way of letting viewers know the series is updating, by incorporating new ways of creating action like drone surveillance, hacking, etc. so it’s not a big criticism, just a feeling of indifference.
It is a surprise to find myself enjoying Bad Boys for life as much as I did. As well as January delivering Academy award-nominated film, the month also has a reputation for garbage dump films, films that are pushed out at a time when it’s cold and not many people make the trip to the cinema. But I think you should brave the cold for this film even if it’s not made to win awards.
Final Result: 6/10 – Above Average
Have you seen Bad Boys for Life? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: The Personal History of David Copperfield