It’s been 25 years since two Miami detectives, Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) teamed up in Michael Bay’s directorial debut, Bad Boys—a highly reinvigorated buddy-cop comedy with high levels of violence, explosions, and profanity. And apparently, it’s been 17 years since Bad Boys II turned up to be a catastrophe—two hours of offensive and derivative sequel where the boys proudly sang “bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do when they come for you” when there is not a single thing to be proud of. Only after a series of development delays, the third movie, Bad Boys for Life, has finally arrived without Bay getting attached to the production, except for a short cameo.
Involving none from the previous productions behind the steering wheels, it’s clear that Bad Boys from Life is an attempt to clean slate (or desperate-time-desperate-measure action). Chris Bremner, Peter Craig (The Town, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay), and Joe Carnahan (Narc, The A-Team) wrote the screenplay; and Belgian duo billed only as Adil & Bilall are set to direct their first English-language full feature. There’s barely anything to expect, except for the long-awaited reunion between Smith and Lawrence.
Adil & Bilall work on a template that seems to reverse-engineer the criticisms from the previous Bad Boys movies. There’s still some dose of profanity with better handling of morality; there’s no more homophobic jokes or insensitive racial slurs even when some raunchy talks are still available. The screenplay, albeit ludicrous at times, focuses more on the story of the two main characters (surprisingly all set-ups—the serious ones or the ridiculous ones—pay off in the end). Burnett feels that the bad-boy life is no longer relevant for him, who has recently become a grandpop. Meanwhile, Lowrey who barely has any life and family is still ambitious in fighting crimes. The ride-together-die-together-bad-boy-for-life mantra has finally found a proper, natural test. That’s the egg that would stick the movie’s plot that might seem like a dough together.
The plot involves a Mexican crimelord (Kate de Castilla) settling a score against Miami’s high profile law-enforcers who took down her deceased husband. She sends her own son (Jacob Scipio), a prolific assassin, on the special-op, before finally crossing path with the titular bad boys. While the killing spree begins to spread out, the bad boys have to deal with their own issues.
Burnett thinks it’s time to be a good man instead (repeatedly exclaiming that he’s too old for this sh-t) and resort to devoting himself to God (even going as far as addressing Him with familiar ‘man’). Lowrey is, on the other hand, keen to take down the bad guy by coaxing Burnett out of the retirement and shooing away a new team AMMO (a new team consisting of Paola Nuñez, Vannessa Hudgens, Riverdale’s Charles Melton, and The Hunger Games’ Alexander Ludwig) tasked to take the case. Lowrey has to fight the enemy that feels strange but close at the same time (please don’t make me tease about Gemini Man which also stars Will Smith dealing with himself here).
Bad Boys for Life works as a nostalgic joyride even when the action sequences are often basic—incomparable to Bayhem classics. The set-pieces are not as bombastic and blatantly deafening as to how Michael Bay would want them to be; even the explosions are not real. However, those new action sequences are not unredeemable. The new sequel still has some adrenaline-pumping moments with some well-choreographed car chase scenes and additional action showcases by AMMO. The choppy action editing is no more; Adil & Bilall tend to keep the violence as long as possible; even, there’s an interesting modification of Dutch tilt shot used for an enticing vertical shootout.
The buddy-cop comedy is still an old vehicle that this franchise ride on. However, for as long as Smith and Lawrence ride it together, Bad Boys might still survive. Ride together, die together, bad boys for life might still find a new direction.