still from bad boys for life

Review: Bad Boys For Life

Director(s)Adil El Arbi
Bilall Fallah
Principal CastWill Smith as Mike Lowrey
Martin Lawrence as Marcus Burnett
Jacob Scipio as Armando Armas
Kate del Castillo as Isabel Aretas
Release Date2020
Running Time 124 minutes

I’ll be upfront and say I don’t really remember Bad Boys or Bad Boys II outside of a few moments, and I wasn’t going to go through the effort of re-watching them for this newest release. Thankfully for me, the movie doesn’t require knowledge of the previous movies, but does reward people who have kept up with Mike and Marcus’s journey up to now. I left the movie immensely satisfied and think this movie will please old and new fans alike.

The movie follows a more mature Mike and Marcus, the former desperate to continue fighting bad guys while the latter is getting ready to retire and enjoy the comforts of life, including his newly born grandchild. However, a string of murders brings the two together for one last ride (pending the imminent sequel). While I may not remember the last two movies, I know I will remember parts of this one for a bit. The reveals in the third act were fun and well-earned- definitely not what I expected when I was walking in. That’s not to say the story is perfect. It definitely has some moments of fat that could be trimmed off, especially in the second act which feels like it goes on for a while. There’s a lot of “find X” guy sub-plots happening which feel like they could have been condensed and streamlined. But in spite of all of that, it’s entertaining.

If you were a fan of the frenetic cut based directing of the previous movies, you may be upset with how tame this movie feels. There’s still a ton of action and movement, but it feels more contained and refined. I personally enjoy this style way more and appreciated how clean the action sequences looked. I could tell you exactly what was happening on the screen as it happened, which I rarely can in modern action movies.

Like the action, the character development and pacing of the plot feel more refined than ever. Both Mike and Marcus have meaningful character arcs in this movie. Martin Lawrence’s performance as the latter proves he still has his acting chops. He’s just as funny but has a clarity about him. Even the side characters get some love here. The buddy-cop duo find themselves joined by tech-driven operations team (AMMO) and each member brings a little spice to the formula. I loved watching them bounce off the main duo and their interjections keeps the movie feeling fresh. The crazy part is – none of the above are even my favorite character from the movie. That honor goes to the villain Armando, a man who’s as complex is he as dedicated to executing justice. He’s a hardened criminal who has a moral compass and nothing about it feels off. Ruthless and violent, but not a deranged monster. I dig it.

Honestly, my biggest issues concerning the movie stem from its identity crisis. The movie wants to be funny (which it most certainly is), serious, have a message, and be action-packed. The issue is that it mixes those elements in ways that make them oppose one another. For example., there are moments where something serious happens and then someone makes a funny joke almost undercutting the impact of what was said. I get that it’s funny and is poking fun at the scenario, but it really takes you out of the moment. Likewise, the humor compounded with some missed opportunities, takes away a lot from some of the themes presented in the first act.

Report Card

TLDRBad Boys for Life should satisfy fans of the franchise and newcomers alike. It’s bold and has genuinely fun moments that set it apart from predecessors, but it never takes the following steps to become something truly innovative. Good popcorn flick and one of the better buddy-cop movies.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!


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