Will Smith as Mike Lowrey
Martin Lawrence as Marcus Burnett
Joe Pantoliano as Captain Conrad Howard
Vanessa Hudgens as Kelly
Charles Melton as Rafe
Alexander Ludwig as Dorn
Paola Núñez as Rita
Jacob Scipio as Armando Armas
Kate del Castillo as Isabel Armas
Theresa Randle as Theresa Burnett
Directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah
Bad Boys for Life review:
It’s hard to believe it’s been 17 years since we last saw the iconic Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) tear up Miami in their quest for justice and in stepping into the third installment of the action franchise, Bad Boys for Life, it’s great to see that the effects of time haven’t hit the stars or the series too hard, and yet something still does feel like it’s missing. Whether it be simply too long of a gap between the second, and honestly best, installment in the franchise or not having explosion extraordinaire Michael Bay (Transformers) at the helm, the film does feel like a step down but yet does try to explore themes and concepts in ways that help keep it from feeling completely empty.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
In the years since Mike and Marcus took down drug kingpin Johnny Tapia and Mike began dating Marcus’ sister Syd (Gabrielle Union, L.A.’s Finest), it appears only a handful of things have changed. Mike is still as reckless and adrenaline-hungry as ever, having broken up with Syd at some point in the past, and Marcus is celebrating becoming a grandfather as his daughter Megan has given birth to a son to Reggie from the second film’s iconic improv session between Smith and Lawrence. Appearing at the start of the film, Reggie’s appearance marks the first of a number of nostalgic revisits from the past two films and it feels like one of the cheaper attempts to do so. However, much like other parts of the film, it’s a nostalgic moment that is still fun to see as a hardcore fan of the series, even if it is kind of forced.
While going up against Johnny Tapia and most of the Cuban government might have been the most explosive case the two have faced together, Life sees the duo facing the most emotional of cases yet as a string of assassinations are hitting political and law enforcement figures, including Mike himself, who is gunned down and nearly killed while celebrating the birth of Marcus’ grandson. Mike’s near death and his subsequent recovery and fight to get back to fighting crime is the start of the film’s greatest asset not previously seen in the series: emotional maturity.
The first two films may have established revenge motives for each hero, from Mike’s slain love interest in the first to Marcus’ kidnapped sister in the second, but the third installment finds more dramatic and gut-wrenching motives for the two to see the case all the way through. Mike’s near-death actually forces him to face mortality for the first time in the series and thanks to Smith and Lawrence’s powerful performances, it does so in a believable and raw fashion that proves compelling to watch.
In addition, we actually see Marcus explore retirement and losing a brother in a complete fashion after numerous jokes over the years and rather than laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation, which it is frequently, we actually empathize with him. Between caring for his grandson, whose parents are on their honeymoon, and trying to finally spend time with his wife, Marcus has a real reason to want to stay alive and be around and we may laugh at some of his boredom around the house, but we come to understand and appreciate his choices.
When they’re not dealing with some emotionally-crippling events, including the death of fan-favorite, profanity-spewing Captain Howard (Pantoliano), they are wrapped up in numerous gunfights and chase sequences and while a few of the sequences offer some exhilarating action and stylish direction from franchise newcomers Arbi and Fallah, they do feel a bit lackluster compared to the first two films. This may be a result of Bay’s explosive-happy mind no longer being behind the camera or from trying to keep the budget down, but it does feel toned down compared to the prior two films.
Even worse is that while the first two films kept its action fairly practical, the threequel has decided to take a more CGI-dependent approach for many of its sequences and it becomes pretty apparent and doesn’t feel right for the series. The sequences in which CGI is used are still pretty exciting, including a crashed helicopter in the final shootout, but it still does look odd when acting as the background for practical explosions and hand-to-hand combat.
Overall, Bad Boys for Life does struggle as parts of its story are very predictable and some of its humor falls flat, but thanks to more outstanding chemistry between its leads, stylish direction and mostly exhilarating action, the threequel proves to be a fun outing for fans waiting to see the two reunite for another banter-fueled adventure that keeps the doors open for more.