It’s been 17 years since we last saw Will Smith and Martin Lawrence take on the roles of Mike Lowery and Marcus Bennett respectively. Two loud-mouthed Miami detectives who always do things their way. Now with retirement seeming like the realistic option, with their bad boyish behaviours behind them, they find themselves roped into an investigation they can’t turn away from, as they declare ‘one last time’.
With a release date during the cinema graveyard that is January, and original franchise creator and director Michael Bay out of his usual seat behind camera, it would appear as though this (dare I say) long-awaited trilogy finale, was already set to fail. Add that to the less than satisfactory sequel released way back in 2003, it seemed as though Bad Boys For Life had a mountain to climb in order to make back some of its hefty budget. My question going in was why bring this franchise out of retirement now? Is there a story worth telling? That’s what I wanted to find out.
The charisma between Smith and Lawrence has always been the adhesive that keeps the franchise together, and fortunately it’s still going as strong now as it was back then. There’s more of a clash in character between the two this time, with Mike (Will Smith) continuing his role of the hardball bad cop, and Marcus (Martin Lawrence) willing to take his pension money and call it quits while he still can.
Throughout most of his career people have ridden on the success of Smiths presence alone, taking even the most mediocre of projects to heights that otherwise may not have been reached. Martin Lawrence is here to break that mould. Bringing the comedy that this sequel most certainly needed and although it didn’t all fall on him to provide that, he comes away with the favourable performance.
We’re met with a few other franchise old timers with Theresa Randle reprising her role as Marcus’ no nonsense wife and even more importantly, Joe Pantoliano’s return as the very animated police Captain Howard, who remains just as exaggerated and memorable as we last saw him.
As the duo face what is deemed their toughest job yet, they are teamed up with AMMO. An elite ‘fresh’ surveillance squad, who aid in tracking down the worst of the worst. In this instance that happens to be Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo). A deadly, prison escapee calling for the heads of those responsible for her capture and the death of her husband. She aims to do that with the help of her cocky, yet highly skilled son, Armando Armas (Jacob Scipio).
Heading this team is Rita (Paola Nuñez), an old flame of Mike, who’s level of power seems to damage his ego. Other members include Kelly, Rafe and Dorn (Vanessa Hudgens, Charles Melton and Alexander Ludwig) who all pull their own weight, certainly in the movies third act.
By losing Michael Bay, the Bad Boys franchise actually manages to lose a lot of its identity. It was always foolish, but had a certain bravado that was unmatched back in its heyday. It relied on its unsubtle and outlandish style and Bay knew how to do that better than anybody else.
There’s a consistent glimmer of hope flowing through its timeline. With a few surprises and even offers a twist that the previous two instalments dare not attempt. But in aiming for a more unpredictable experience, certainly in reference to its story, it dials down on its loud personality. That is until it’s finale where it offers what could be its most rambunctious effort in the franchises history.
Bad Boys For Life has more to say with its comedy than it does its action and I’m perfectly fine with that. I come to films like this for a fun ride and it just about offers that. But as Diddy once said ‘we ain’t going nowhere’ and I feel that’s a perfect analogy for the ‘future’ of this franchise. There really is no more to say.