Few Hollywood tropes are as tried and true as the buddy cop film. Released in 1995, the first “Bad Boys” movie was hardly unique, but it introduced the world to two characters that were great at shooting bad guys, blowing things up, looking cool and making audiences laugh.
In film terms, they were capable of delivering a serviceable action flick. The best action flick? Definitely not, but capable enough to warrant a sequel in 2003.
Seventeen years after the release of “Bad Boys II,” studio heads decided a question had to be asked: Can they do that a third time? In short, the answer to the question is yes… mostly.
The film starts off with what appears to be a chase sequence typical of the series, but is later revealed to be a simple, yet high-octane trip to the hospital for the arrival of the first grandchild of Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence). The birth of his grandson inspires Marcus to reconsider the ‘for life’ part of the duo’s mantra, while Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) responds with outrage that his partner would ever consider sitting out a fight (especially one as personal as this film involves).
Undeniably, the best parts of the film come from the chemistry between Smith and Lawrence. While Lawrence’s dramatic acting chops are clearly not of the same caliber as his co-star, Lawrence’s shock and disgust throughout the film deliver the laughs audience members are going to be looking for. Nearly every second that these two (or their police captain played by Joe Pantoliano) were on-screen helped to better my opinion of the movie.
Easily the biggest downside of this film is a new special operations team called ‘AMMO’ that is introduced to handle the heavy lifting action sequences. The team is comprised of three nobodies with limited personalities (Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig and Charles Melton) led by Mike’s ex-girlfriend (Paola Núñez). The best way I can describe this team is like they were pulled straight from the latest CBS crime procedural, being used for little more than muscle and expository dialog vomit. An ‘explosive’ cameo towards the beginning of the film is likely to induce some groans from audience members familiar with the previous entries in the series, but I genuinely enjoyed that scene more than anything ‘AMMO’ had to offer.
On that same note, the action sequences throughout the movie are genuine fun. I particularly enjoyed a sequence with Smith and Lawrence on a motorcycle with a weapons-filled sidecar, while the film’s climactic battle is quite heavy handed with an insane level of fire and destruction raining down on our heroes. It’s definitely 'over the top’ and ridiculous, but if you came to a film in a series previously only directed by Michael Bay and expected anything different, you came to the wrong place.
None of the plot elements are going to blow your mind (you’ve seen this all before), but the film is well executed enough to keep your attention in the right place as the story unfolds. The villain isn’t particularly compelling for 90% of the movie, but there is a twist I genuinely didn’t see coming that works to reinvigorate the drama, just in time. In short, “Bad Boys For Life” is your typical buddy cop film with two familiar stars delivering an enjoyable story with fun dialog and good action.
Brandon’s Verdict: “Bad Boys For Life” is mostly dumb popcorn, but this type of dumb popcorn still tastes pretty good. You’re going to laugh and, if you can shut your brain off for a bit, you’ll enjoy the film. I’m not sure “for life” is the right idea for a franchise that happily rides so close to mediocrity, but I’m happy with it “for now.”