At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Bad Boys for Life

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Action-Comedy/ Stars: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Paola Nunez, Kate del Castillo, Nicky Jam, Joe Pantoliano, Theresa Randle, Jacob Scipio, Jamie Neumann, Massi Furlan, Thomas Brag, DJ Khaled/Runtime: 124 minutes

I feel that it is no closely-guarded secret in the world of Hollywood that when a sequel is released it usually tends to happen fairly quickly. Indeed this has been proven in such cases as John Wick which, since the release of the first one, has seen 2 sequels in the 5 years since with a 3rd set for 2021, the Friday the 13th movies from back in the day which saw the first 4 release every year over a 4 year period, and the Saw franchise which followed the same pattern as FT13 for at least the first six. With that being said though, there are other documented cases however where the fans that have loved and cherished certain films have had to wait at least 10+ years, sometimes even longer, for sequels to emerge with Blade Runner 2049, Mad Max: Fury Road, Tron: Legacy, and Bill and Ted 3 fitting in this category. Suffice it to say then that the longer the audience has to wait, the more of a gamble that sequel becomes. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s so bad you wish you could burn every single copy in existence. This of course brings us to today’s long-in-the-making sequel Bad Boys for Life, and this one was a gamble to say the least. Indeed it has been at least 17 years since Will Smith and Martin Lawrence graced screens everywhere as gonzo Miami detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett respectively. To say that we had to wait awhile is an understatement, and yet against all odds, this film is totally worth the wait we had to endure. Indeed Bad Boys for Life is one of those rare long-time-in-the-making sequels that does a wonderful job of checking off everything we loved about the movies that came before it while also adding its own delightful spin and making for a delightful time to be had….even if it manages to fall prey to a few of the trademark downsides that have been a mark of this franchise as whole since the beginning.

The plot is as follows: Picking up 17 years after the events of their previous outing, the film opens with Marcus declaring to long-time partner Mike that he plans to retire following the arrival of his first grandchild into the world. Of course for the beleaguered partners things only proceed to go from bad to worse when, while out having a drink, Mike is quickly and horrifically gunned down and nearly killed by a mysterious assassin with a personal ax to grind against the once-thought “bulletproof” detective. Now Mike and Marcus find themselves working with a former fling of Mike’s and her team of millennial cops on a dual-tiered mission not only of catching this guy, but also to help Mike come to terms with his mortality, and also face some long-buried, and quite unresolved demons from his past along the way…

Now they may be the titular duo, and the, aside from whatever it was that Michael Bay brought to the table (namely explosions, explosions, and more explosions) main motivator for why exactly people have always desired to watch the previous couple of films. Yet with director Bay directing Six Underground and demolishing the Transformers franchise I can understand why you might be confused on just what motivated Will Smith and Martin Lawrence towards bringing Mike and Marcus out of the film retirement home for this particular movie yet now that I’ve seen Bad Boys for Life, I can now say I understand why they did. This is because this is one pairing that plain and simply just works regardless of how much time has passed. Indeed the odd-couple formula that this movie chooses to work with isn’t the most revolutionary in the world, but Smith and Lawrence absolutely shine in their attempts to maintain the sharp back-and-forth that has long been a trademark of this series, and which aids this film tremendously in working as well as it does while it is between the moments where the action explodes onto the screen. Indeed suffice it to say, but it really has been far too long since these two have graced our screens, and it’s a blast from start to finish in getting the opportunity to ride along with them on another investigation. The supporting cast also does pretty good work here as we get wonderful stuff from everyone from returning favorite Joe Pantoliano as beleaguered and always in over-his-head Captain Howard who actually gets a chance to have an arc that develops him more as a character all the way to the team of millennial cops that Mike and Marcus are reluctantly paired up with even though at times they do feel more like the Nick Jr. to their Nick at Nite, but they still all give pretty good performances. Even the 2 main antagonists of this story give fairly good turns here even if there really isn’t a whole lot that I can say about them due to reasons that have a lot to do with this film’s plot.

Now in addition to the wonderful work done by the game cast, I also feel that credit must be due to the fact that the movie manages to, in a brilliant move, choose to embrace rather than shy away from the fact that a lot of years have passed between the 2nd and 3rd stories in this series thus enabling the film to both have some fun at the expense of our odd couple pair of aging detectives yet also manage to give them milestones from grandchildren, to kids getting married, and actually thinking about a life beyond our chosen career paths that an audience can actually relate to on a personal level. Plus it also doesn’t hurt that the actors themselves have made these iconic characters into surprisingly relatable individuals who just happen to exist in a gonzo-extreme action world.

Now even if Michael Bay’s excessive, and explosion-obsessed, directorial style was completely all over the first two films in this series, I do feel that this film’s newcomer dynamic directing duo that is Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah manage to do a wonderful job in managing to mix together both Bay’s style of directing while also making this film their own. Yet if there was one thing that distinguishes this film from the previous two, it would have to be the fact that this film most assuredly has some of the most awesome car stunt scenes with particular regard to car chases in the history of the franchise. Indeed while to be fair, I do feel that there will never be a stunt quite like the Miami bridge car chase from the 2nd one back in 2003, but this one will most assuredly leave you both gripping the edge of your seat and applauding as we get to see Mike and Marcus waste criminals like only they know how whilst attempting to face off against their deadly duo of worthy to the franchise yet extremely lethal new adversaries.

I also feel that a lot of credit for why this movie clicks as well as it does must also go to the team of screenwriters brought together for this movie, and who actually managed to come up with legitimate and surprisingly human reasons in order to bring this gonzo action franchise out of Hollywood “retirement” for at least one more round on the merry go-round. Indeed it may surprise you to hear this dear reader, but Bad Boys for Life is not just a plain and simple greatest hits reminder of what we loved about the first 2 films. Instead this film actually manages to move forward and show us just where we are in the lives of our 2 main characters. Indeed, and to be fair, there is a little bit of repetitiveness on display therein, but by making the creative narrative choice to have the film give a much larger focus on Mike rather than the titular duo, this film then earns the right to roll the dice, spin the wheel, and actually take a chance or two that it might not otherwise have been able to do. Suffice it to say then that there are actually a number of major surprises that exist within this film’s story which I shan’t reveal or talk much about here that managed to throw me completely for a loop as well as a couple of spots in the film where what I had guessed was going to happen suddenly took a hard left turn in the opposite direction. Now, and to be fair, there are moments where when this film tries to avoid the predictable that it then careens too much into the self-referential zone. Indeed it should go without saying, but while these asides are invaluable in helping us as an audience take note of how absurd certain aspects of this film’s plot are, they also have the unintended effect of sadly bringing this film down at points here and there.

All in all though Bad Boys for Life is without a doubt in my mind the kind of sequel that, when first announced to the general movie going public, could have been a complete and total unequivocal disaster on the level of the Titanic or Hindenburg. Indeed a lot of that, as I have previously stated in this review not only has a lot to do with the fact that film leads Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are nearly 2 decades older than when they made the 2nd Bad Boys with Michael Bay all the way back in 2003, but also because it is common knowledge in the land of movie magic that Time has rarely been the kind type when it comes to action stars despite Liam Neeson for one managing to prove him wrong time and time again. It also comes down to stark, blunt truth that for every sequel that is a Blade Runner 2049- situation where although it took a long time to make, the finished product is absolutely phenomenal and definitely earns the right to exist in the world, there are also numerous sequels that are made year after year which exist solely so the studio making the movie can try to wring just a few more dollars out of the brand before then shelving it for good aka The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause. Thankfully Bad Boys for Life is definitely not a Santa Clause 3 situation. Instead this is a film which is a true thank-you for their patience for fans of the original two movies and gives them a sequel that is not only action-packed, and personality-fueled, but that also has a surprising degree of heart and pathos as well. So I guess the only thing left to ask is: Bad Boys, Bad Boys Whatcha Gonna Do? Whatcha Gonna Do when this comes to theaters for you? I hope you answer back by going to see it. Trust me. You will not regret it.  On a scale of 1-5 I give Bad Boys for Life a 3.5 out of 5.