One of the benefits of getting older is the realization that it is never too late to reinvent oneself. 25 years after proving that Will Smith and Martin Lawrence could be bankable action stars, the Bad Boys franchise is once again defying expectations with Bad Boys for Life. Picking up 17 years after Bad Boys II, the series is forced to come to terms with the fact that times have changed.
The brand of over-the-top action that Michael Bay’s films once provided have been usurped by the Fast & Furious and John Wicks of the world. Realizing that it was time to breathe new life into the franchise, Bay has vacated the director’s chair (though he does make a cameo) and passed the torch to the duo of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (aka. Adil & Bilall). Building on the visual flare that they displayed in their problematic film Black, they succeed in recapturing the chemistry of the original Bad Boys while exposing how dated the previous films are.
Detectives Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) are still wisecracking partners, but they are starting to show their age. They are a little slower, need glasses and have plenty of grey in their goatees. Marcus has just become a grandpa and is seriously thinking about cashing in on his long-promised retirement. By contrast, Mike is still clinging to his visions of grandeur, including the playboy lifestyle he has aged out of.
Despite still believing in their brand of justice, which usually results in plenty of carnage, even Mike can see that policing is not what it used to be. Shaking down informants has been replaced by advanced technology. A point emphasized by the creation of AMMO, a special unit led by Rita (Paola Nuñez), Mike’s ex-girlfriend, that features a team of young tech savvy agents (Vanessa Hudgens, Charles Melton and Alexander Ludwig). However, when the fearsome Mexican cartel, led by Isabel (Kate del Castillo) and her son Armando (Jacob Scipio), set out to settle an old score, Mike and Marcus must learn how to work alongside AMMO in order to survive this new threat.
Far more engaging than one might expect from a third film in a franchise, Bad Boys for Life is the most entertaining film in the series to date. By placing focus squarely on Mike and Marcus’ relationship, and not the elaborate action, though there is plenty of that too, Adil & Bilall give the men far more dimension than in the previous films. These are characters who must now confront their mortality, notions of faith and the ramifications of past actions.
While the philosophical dilemmas the duo wrestle with adds a nice layer of depth to the film, Bad Boys for Life is an action film first and foremost. Clearly taking several cues from the Fast & Furious franchise, which oddly are the new heirs to the Michael Bay throne, there are several entertaining set pieces that keep the film moving at a brisk pace. The addition of AMMO also gives the production a Mission: Impossible vibe that hopefully will be explored even further in future films.
An unexpected treat that will satisfy fans and newcomers alike, Bad Boys for Life shows that getting older can be plenty of fun.