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Review: Bad Boys for Life (2020)

Bad Boys for Life (2020)

Directed by: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah

Premise: The third film in the Bad Boys series. Detectives Marcus and Mike (Will Smith and Martin Lawrence) face middle age while working with a new elite squad in the Miami Police Department. 

What Works: Bad Boys for Life is another belated franchise sequel, like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and 2008’s Rambo and the filmmakers take advantage of the time lapse. The detectives played by Will Smith and Martin Lawrence were in their prime in the first two pictures but Bad Boys for Life finds them in middle age; the movie opens with the reveal that Lawrence’s character has become a grandfather. Their advanced age allows for some new layers to the characters and this story. The detectives have to cope with age but also identity; they are not the young men that they were in the previous adventures and there are a few old age jokes but also some poignant moments about facing loss and mortality and accounting for legacy. This gives Bad Boys for Life some depth and substance that the other films lacked. Most importantly, the filmmakers rip down the invincible image of Lawrence and Smith’s characters. They can get hurt and that reenergizes the material and adds tension to the story. The Bad Boys series is part of the buddy-cop genre in which a conservative policeman is paired with a wild card partner and they shoot their way to justice. The third film is still part of that genre and it adheres to the style of this franchise; this is still recognizably a Bad Boys movie. However, the third installment makes certain changes. For one, Bad Boys for Life walks back some of the excesses of the other films, especially Bad Boys II. The previous installments were directed by Michael Bay and the second movie might be the most Michael Bay-esque title of that filmmaker’s career with its gleeful destruction and giddy cruelty. Bad Boys for Life was helmed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah and in their film the usual renegade cop routine doesn’t work; Smith’s character frequently makes things worse. And by keeping the action set pieces a little more credible the film is much more exciting. The story is also simplified compared to the incoherent plotting of Bad Boys II and the new film offers a more focused narrative with a mostly clear through line.

What Doesn’t: There are a few places in Bad Boys for Life in which the filmmakers skim over some important details. At one point, Lawrence’s character leaves the police department and of course he later rejoins his partner but how he’s able to just return to the force after retiring doesn’t make much sense. Like any action movie, Bad Boys for Life stretches its credibility but there is one big reveal that the whole plot hinges upon and it requires the audience to really suspend their disbelief. The movie plows through the incredulity but it’s a lot to get through.  

DVD extras: There are multiple disc releases. The standard blu-ray release includes deleted scenes, outtakes, featurettes, and Easter eggs.

Bottom Line: Bad Boys for Life is the best installment of this franchise. It delivers all the thrills and laughs that we expect from a Bad Boys movie but it also cleans up the excesses of this series. The end result is a lean action picture with some nice character moments. 

Episode: #805 (June 21, 2020)