We ride together, we die together, bad boys for life. After a 17-year hiatus, the Bad Boys, Marcus Burnett (Martin Laurence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith), are back on the streets of Miami for one last ride in Bad Boys for Life.
Coming back to this beloved franchise after 17 years is a risky move, especially since it boasts new directors, new writers and actors who are past their prime. The big question is; does it feel like it’s been 17 years since these characters were in their prime? Yes, but in a good way. When the story reintroduces us to Mike and Marcus it’s clear that time has passed, they’re both in different stages of life and the crime-fighting days of old are beginning to get behind them. I like that the film doesn’t just pretend these guys are in their 20s – 30s and instead uses the large time gap as a key plot point, making it all seem a little bit more realistic.
The story that writers Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan have conjured up for this revival is great. It sends Mike and Marcus on a different kind of mission and really works for where each of the characters are in their lives. They may be past their prime, but when bullets are flying, cars are flipping and one-liners are being dished, the movie is at its most fun and it’s like the Bad Boys of old. Also, it’s not just a straightforward run-of-the-mill plot, there are a number of rather shocking surprises that keep things moving and switch things up quite regularly.
The biggest issue with the story lies with the pacing, which is constantly jumping between fast and slow, resulting in some jarring shifts. Sometimes the story calls for it to slow down but a couple of times it sinks into a bit of a lull when it should be ramping up. One of those lulls is right before the final act kicks off where it slows down a little too much and for a little too long, sort of killing the urgency in the plot.
As I mentioned, when the film embraces its strengths it’s a remarkably fun ride. Its biggest strength being the thrilling action sequences, with enough shootouts and car chases to keep you entertained right through to the massive climax. Some of the action sequences are a little less fast-paced than before for obvious reasons, but it doesn’t mean they’re any less fun. On top of the action, there’s also a decent amount of heart and emotion weaved into the story quite nicely. It does a lot to develop the characters of Mike and Marcus over the course of the film in interesting ways.
The other crucial element of Bad Boys that hasn’t disappeared is the irreplaceable chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. The two of them have this unbreakable bond in real life that bleeds into their onscreen characters and makes their back and forth banter some of the best. Their characters may have changed but they haven’t lost a grip on their relationship, which is at the forefront of this story. Joe Pantoliano returns with a great performance as Captain Howard alongside a number of new faces.
Working alongside Mike and Marcus is a new, younger team made up of Vanessa Hudgens, Charles Melton and Alexander Ludwig that challenge their ‘destructive’ way of dealing with things. My first impression of these new inclusions was that they would be annoying more than they would be a fresh addition to the film. I was right, to an extent. Upon introduction, this new crew of characters are a little irritating and I didn’t really want to see more of them. As time went on and they became more involved in the story, they grew on me and I thoroughly enjoyed their presence.
In the end, Bad Boys for Life is a resounding success, reviving the Bad Boys franchise after such a long hiatus with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence jumping right back into the shoes of their characters. It’s fun, fast-paced and a journey full of thrills, shocks and surprises. It does suffer from some dips in pacing where it could’ve probably just kept on moving, but overall it’s a fun ride. I wouldn’t be opposed to even seeing another Bad Boys film in the future, only as long as Smith and Lawrence are at the forefront of the story.