Almost seventeen years after “Bad Boys II” Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith), are longer in the tooth but still ready for some over-the-top action in a one-last-job movie. “I’ve never trusted anybody but you,” says Lowery says to Burnett in “Bad Boys for Life.” “I’m asking you, man. Bad Boys, one last time?”
Once “bad boys for life,” the team of Burnett and Lowrey is coming apart at the seams. Middle age and career aspirations have sent the once inseparable team in opposite directions. Burnett, now a grandfather, is one the edge of retirement—”Mike, we got more time behind us than in front,” he says.—while Lowery is still hungry for the adrenaline rush that comes with police work. “I’m going to be running down criminals till I’m a hundred,” he says.
Their lives have led them in different directions but when Armando Armas Tapia (Jacob Scipio), a drug kingpin and son of a man Burnett and Lowery took down years ago, resurfaces looking for vengeance, the two cops put the band back together. “Family is the only thing that matters,” Burnett says to Lowery. “I’m not letting you go on this suicide mission alone.”
“Bad Boys for Life” doesn’t feel so much like a sequel or a reboot as it does a tribute to the Michael Bay films of the o-so-many-years-ago. The patented “Bad Boys” high style feels like nostalgia for the 1990s when movie violence came with dark humor and buddy cop charisma. The story of a vengeful drug dealer is about as deep as a lunch try but directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, who have clearly worshiped at the altar of Bay, understand that the success or failure of a “Bad Boys” movie isn’t about the story but the sparks generated by Smith and Lawrence. The pair, now aged 51 and 54 respectively, fall back into their roles effortlessly, having some fun with their middle-aged selves. “Bad boys ain’t really boys anymore.”
One effectively staged scene compares and contrasts the partners and their stages of life. It’s a funny sequence that intercuts Lowery putting on his Ray Bans with a flourish while Burnett struggles to get his reading glasses on his face, etc. It’s a nice light show-me-don’t-tell-me scene that sets up the dynamic between the two.
The wild action scenes that follow tend toward orgiastic videogame style shootouts, particularly the climatic battle, but succeed because the CGI is kept to a minimum and the gunshots are punctuated by Lawrence’s quips.
“Bad Boys for Life” keeps the camera in constant motion, filling the screen with equal parts over-the-top violence and humour, breathing new life into a franchise that was declared dead when George W. Bush was still president.