Movies & TV / Reviews

Bad Boys for Life Review

January 17, 2020 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Bad Boys For Life
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
Bad Boys for Life Review  

Directed By: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah
Written By: Peter Craig, Joe Carnahan and Chris Bremner
Runtime: 123 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated R For Strong Bloody Violence, Language Throughout, Sexual References, and Brief Drug Use

Will Smith – Mike Lowrey
Martin Lawrence – Marcus Burnett
Joe Pantoliano – Captain Howard
Kate del Castillo – Isabel Aretas
Jacob Scipio – Armando Armas
Paola Nuñez – Rita
Alexander Ludwig – Dorn
Charles Melton – Rafe
Vanessa Hudgens – Kelly
Nicky Jam – Zway-Lo
Theresa Randle – Theresa Burnett
DJ Khaled – Manny

Nearly 17 years after Bad Boys II was released, the third installment of the franchise Bad Boys for Life, finally arrives. Granted, trying to turn Bad Boys into a franchise is a bit of a head-scratcher in the first place. The first film is a decent enough action movie. The second movie was bloated excess. Granted, Bad Boys for Life is not a disaster, but it’s clear Sony Pictures is desperate to capitalize on the Fast and Furious franchise and create their own high-octane action film universe. Bad Boys for Life is decent enough as an action movie, but it falls short of its grandiose shared universe franchise goals that it’s shooting for.

After a nebulous quarter of a century partnering together, Detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett are still the odd cop couple. However, now that they are well into their 50s and witnessing the birth of Marcus’ first grandson, Marcus is ready to retire and call it a career. Unfortunately for the self-proclaimed “Bad Boys,” a ghost, or rather a “bruja” named Isabel Aretas (Del Castillo), from Mike’s past has resurfaced, and she wants revenge on Mike Lowrey. Her incredibly competent, well-trained son, Armando (Scipio), helps free her from prison to restart their drug cartel activities. After taking over the local Miami criminal underworld, they set about their plan to make Mike Lowrey suffer. After a harrowing experience, Marcus is not ready to take up gun and badge again and seeks retirement. But like Marcus and Mike are “Bad Boys for Life,” and you can’t keep a good “Bad Boy” down. Eventually, Marcus and Mike, with the help of their friends in the high-tech Miami police unit AMMO, seek to bring Isabel and her son to justice.

For the most part, Bad Boys for Life is an entertaining action movie. Martin Lawrence and Will Smith’s chemistry is as good as always, and they at least come up with some interesting thing for both characters, who are at major turning points in their lives and hit with sobering doses of mortality.

What holds the movie back is that it seems more naturally poised to be an emotional sendoff and conclusion for the trilogy. Instead, as studios are inclined to do in a post-MCU landscape, the film is littered with both sequel-bait and setups for possible spinoffs. Making a Hobbs & Shaw spinoff for the Fast & Furious franchise is one thing. Trying to make Bad Boys into a shared cinematic universe is another. It’s fairly blatant with the new characters introduced in this film and the AMMO division of the Miami PD.

Despite all that, Bad Boys for Life only offers a passing reference to Gabrielle Union’s Sydney Burnett from the second movie, who is currently starring in her own Bad Boys TV spinoff, L.A.’s Finest. Instead, Paola Nuñez is set as the new romantic love interest for Mike Lowrey. Nuñez actually does well with what she’s given, but it’s another sexless, chaste romantic subplot that’s set up and goes nowhere. Something that’s become fairly routine in the last 15 years or so of big-budgeted action movies. You would think Sydney Burnett would at least want to pay the family a visit to see her great-nephew and check on Mike Lowrey’s wellbeing. Well, there’s barely any mention of Sydney, and that’s a letdown.

The first half of the sequel is a bit shakey. It takes a while for the movie to find its footing. Most of the big, major action scenes are stuffed into the back half. The film has multiple credited screenwriters, which definitely shows in the final product. The setup for a big chase in what starts as a surveillance sting goes stars in a rather haphazard manner, but once the chase starts with Mike and Marcus in the middle of it, things pick up. Since Mike and Marcus are kept apart for a significant period of time, the story does meander until they are finally forced back together.

Co-directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah assert themselves well for the most part with the material. Pacing and forced spinoff and sequel-bait aside, they clearly have a knack for directing action. They know how to showcase the Smith and Lawrence duo to maximum effect. The action looks visually compelling and coherent, and there’s even an amusing homage to that famous moment from Bad Boys II that gets thrown in, along with one other one that fans of the previous films will know when they see it.

It doesn’t take a lot to create a decent, entertaining action movie. Despite the third installment coming long after one would expect for a franchise expiration date, Bad Boys for Life gets the job done in a fairly satisfying effort. The film could’ve done without all the forced franchise posturing. It’s not better than the original, but it’s a sight better than the second film.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Beyond all logic, Bad Boys for Life is actually a decent, entertaining action movie. Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah do well in showcasing the great comedic chemistry and energy of the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence duo. They are older and a little softer around the edges, but they are still game as ever for the material. The script has its issues in terms of pacing and trying to set up new spinoffs and even additional future sequels, which came off as unnecessary. From an emotional standpoint, this story felt like as good a stopping point as ever. But finding that stopping point is usually the problem with franchise-obsessed studio efforts.