It’s about time! The last time the Bad Boys were in action the year was 2003. It was a simpler time of more practical effects and younger action stars. The Bad Boys franchise burned brightly in the late 90s and early 2000s, making BAD BOYS FOR LIFE an especially highly-anticipated franchise conclusion.
In BAD BOYS FOR LIFE, Lawrence and Smith are older and wiser and ready to see the story through. When going into the film, this critic was unsure of what exactly to expect. It had been “many moons” since I’d contemplated the action stylings of detective duo, Mike and Marcus. I’m happy to report that BAD BOYS FOR LIFE stands and delivers!
The film is directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah and stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, reprising the famous titular roles. The supporting cast surprisingly sparkles with performances by Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, and Joe Pantoliano.
Admittedly, there was some fear going in that BAD BOYS FOR LIFE would go in the bad direction of “aging action star” movies (something I’ve personally come to call “The Tommy Lee Jones Treatment.”). A fatal flaw of these films is resting the comedy on “Haha, it’s funny because they’re old!” It’s an easy trap to fall into, so how did the Bad Boys do?
Yes, BAD BOYS FOR LIFE does some classic comedic poking at the concept of retirement and there are plenty of moments where the odd greying hair and expanding waistline joke slides in. However, these jokes are sprinkled in versus being used as a crutch and the few that come up are done well. To this critic’s pleasant surprise, the film very completely addresses aging by exploring much larger concepts like the loss of identity and the struggle of reframing one’s goals as they grow older.
Both characters are compelled to make decisions because, as it is so eloquently put by the film, they have “more years behind [them] than ahead of [them].” In one of the Bad Boys, we see the acceptance of aging and the decision to live for others versus his own ego. In the other is reflected the unwillingness to let go and the fear of figuring out what lies ahead when time is shorter. It’s surprisingly sincere and the explorations on aging make some of the very best moments in the film.
Beyond being emotionally compelling, BAD BOYS FOR LIFE is damn funny! The entire film is a joy from start to finish and earned more than a few belly laughs. A good time at the movies is never a waste and the film more than earns the investment of your time.
That being said, the film is not without its flaws. All of the emphasis on comedy seemed to dull the edge that is prevalent in the other Bad Boys films. For this reason, the film feels much more like a straight comedy than it does the action/comedy combo fans may be expecting. Whether or not this is a deal-breaker really comes down to the individual viewer.
Regrettably, the plot points of BAD BOYS FOR LIFE are far-fetched to the point of distracting. In an attempt to cram in a handful of sincere moments of emotional growth, we end up with references to witchcraft and twisting, increasingly silly storylines that detract from the overall product. Whether or not the positives outweigh the negatives, it’s difficult to say.
At the end of the day, audiences are coming for the Bad Boys themselves. Will Smith returns to his prior glory, after a string of less-than-great films, in a great performance. Martin Lawrence remains the perfect foil to this and steals every scene that he’s in. The duo is doing some great work and that’s half the battle.
BAD BOYS FOR LIFE is a worthy ending. It allows the franchise to age gracefully and brings this awareness to the film, without the film being hindered by it. For returning fans and fans in the making, I recommend you join the Bad Boys on this one last right. BAD BOYS FOR LIFE is coming for you on January 17th, 2020.