Bad Boys return to the Saddle
It’s been 17 years since the Bad Boys movies have been on our screens and let’s be honest and admit that no one expected to see them come back. The two leads have hit a point in their careers where their names no longer guarantee financial success, the original director has become little more than a punchline about bad filmmakers and a lot of the comedy that made the Bad Boys series popular in the late 90s and early 2000s just wouldn’t fly today. Seriously, go back to Bad Boys II and watch the scene in the video store… that joke aged like milk on the sidewalk. However, the last few years have brought us a plethora of long-dead series like Rambo, Predator and Mary Poppins returning for one more go at the box office so why not revive this classic cop couple and see if they can change with the times.
Bad Boys For Life
Bad Boys For Life might not be a game-changer for the genre but it’s a very fun way to spend a few hours with some interesting characters and inventive visuals. It’s an enjoyable two hours that doesn’t overstay its welcome or bore the viewer.
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Bad Boys for Life sees Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) considering retirement after the birth of his first grandson. Mike Lowrey (Will Smith), on the other hand, has no desire to retire and plans on being a cop until he’s old and covering up his grey with even more hair dye than he currently uses. Both of their plans are thrown into chaos when someone from Mike’s past comes to kill him and a bunch of other important people, all of whom worked together on a case 25 years ago.
Tasked with finding the mysterious man on the motorcycle who has put Mike’s life at risk, the legendary Bad Boys will have to team up with a new group called AMMO, made up of young tech-savvy 20-somethings who not only can handle a weapon but look like they came directly off the set of the latest CW series (in fact, one of them is literally from Riverdale on the CW). This new team have to go on their toughest mission yet and confront a mystery from Mike’s past before that past comes back to kill them all.
The new directors of this movie, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, have clearly paid attention to the past movies of Michael Bay and grabbed all the good stuff from his very specific cinematic style. From Bays colour palette to his beloved camera tricks, they borrow all the major elements that make a Bay film so unique… but they also understand things like short composition, the 180-degree rule and how to edit a movie in a way that doesn’t make the baby Jesus cry. Basically, they show us what it might look like if Michael Bay knew what the hell he was doing and it turns out that extra bit of basic competence makes the film stand out for good reasons.
The skills of the directors are put to great use throughout, their talent in how to move the camera makes it easier for the story to be followed. There wasn’t a single bit of excess narrative, no plot cul-de-sacs where they can have random gay panic jokes. Everything was tight and controlled and it leads to a much more enjoyable experience.
Simple, unadulterated fun
The story itself is a simple one of revenge, with the antagonists of the film trying to get revenge on Mike for something that gets revealed late into the second act. I’ll admit the reveal itself is a bit forced and creates a few moments that straddle that line between cheesy and corny, but it’s simple enough that you can easily follow it even if you’ve never seen a movie in this franchise before.
The simple story and structure, combined with a much cleaner visual style, means we get to focus on the great character work going on with this spectacular. Will Smith reminds the audience why he was the top box office draw for years, easily delivering the best performance of this movie and probably of the entire franchise in general.
Martin Lawrence brings some great comedy and balances out the energetic performance by Smith, while also managing to steal more than a few scenes of his own. Even the new kids in the cast (Riverdale’s Charles Melton, The Hunger Games’ Alexander Ludwig and High School Musical’s Vanessa Hudgens) manage to keep up with the legends and create some fun fully formed characters that fit perfectly into this world. The cast is so good that even a cameo by DJ Khaled somehow manages to work and I’ve seen that man cameo in films as himself where he comes off as fake, so that’s a testament to the work that went into this.
The larger cast also shows the series growth away from problematic edge lord humour that’s dogged its reputation over the years, replacing it with good jokes and fun characters that can still be shocking without being cruel. They haven’t lost their bite, they just grew up a little and know who they should leave marks on.
Where do we go from here?
This might be the funniest film of the trilogy, with several moments that are funny enough to have the audience doubled over with what can best be described as guffaws of laughter. All this while at the same time presenting some fantastic action set pieces that push the action right up to the limit, all gloriously well shot and edited so you can enjoy the glorious spectacle they have created for you.
Bad Boys for Life is the best of the Bad Boys films, proving how much a series can improve with the removal of Michael Bay. It might not be a game-changer for the genre but it’s a very fun way to spend a few hours with some interesting characters and inventive visuals. It’s an enjoyable two hours that doesn’t overstay its welcome or bore the viewer. It feels like they had a good reason to bring these boys back and make the most out of it. Not just a return to form, an improvement on the form that came before.