Film Review – Bad Boys For Life (2020)

Mike (WILL SMITH), Marcus (MARTIN LAWRENCE) on the streets of Miami in Columbia Pictures’ BAD BOYS FOR LIFE.

We have more time behind us than in front of us” utters Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) to his partner Mike Lowery (Will Smith) before their near three-decade partnership is faced with its biggest challenge so far: death. Well, at least the realisation that perhaps for the first time, that they aren’t bulletproof despite the monikers garnered upon them in their years on the force and while they may still think they are Miami PD’s own brand of superheroes, age and time are slowing becoming less of a friend. Indeed, the same could be said for the franchise itself – after a 17-year gap, is there still room in the bloated multiplex lineups for the fast-talking, fast-driving, slo-mo shooting dynamic duo?

The time away, it seems, has done them good as all the pre-release amble was certainly to the contrary especially given Smith and Lawrence’s recent career downturns with the latter himself taking a step back from Hollywood, whilst The Fresh Prince struggled with Collateral Beauty, Bright and Gemini Man with his turn as Genie in Aladdin bringing him a much-needed hit. To say this was simply a cash-cow, returning to a burnt-out franchise effort might be easy but for all the rumours of would they/wouldn’t they, its something of a surprise to report that Bad Boys for Life is a big slice of fun.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star in Columbia Pictures’ BAD BOYS FOR LIFE.

Still working the beat that is like mardi gras every day (paraphrasing Smith’s classic “Miami”, there), Lowery and Burnett’s next assignment hits close to home and brings a secret past to the fore that soon sees them in the sights of ruthless and efficient killer turned drug cartel leader Armando Armas (Jacob Scipio). Burnett would rather be at home with his newly born grandchild but Lowery has other ideas, desperate to bring Armas to justice, even if it means teaming with AMMO, MPD’s newest élite team that’s faster, smarter and younger than our bad boys.

While this one isn’t directed by Michael Bay, his fingerprints are so ingrained in the series that whoever too over was going to be asked to bring the same sharp, overly expansive, high-octane energy to proceedings. Original director Joe Carnahan may have gone a little more gritty, it’s Belgian directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah who ultimately got the gig and they are more in the spirit, and with much written about Smith’s growing influence, he seems to have won his gamble as the duo keep in the tradition while adding their own unique flavour to proceedings and for the most part it does the job admirably.

Subtly and strong narrative choices aren’t really in the franchise’s forte and BBFL is no different, with a story wafer-thin that moves from one set-piece to another whilst the supporting cast are given next to nothing to play with, but they aren’t why you buy your tickets. Still kicking it after all these years, Smith and Lawrence has lost none of their sparkle nor their sense of humour and while they’re not the spring chickens they were back in 1995, their energy is still ridiculously infectious and when they aren’t putting each other down over cars, family spa days and babies, they are shooting up bad guys as bad boys do. Despite it not being on their side, there’s more time to be had with these two just yet.

Comedy, Action, Crime | USA, 2020 | 15 | 17th January 2020 | Sony Pictures Releasing | Dir.Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah | Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Alexander Ludwig, Vanessa Hudgens, Joe Pantoliano

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