Bad Boys for Life (2020)
Bad Boys for Life (2020)

Genre: Action Comedy Running Time: 2 hrs. 3 min.

Release Date: January 17th, 2020 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah Actors: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Joe Pantoliano, Kate del Castillo, Jacob Scipio, Paola Nuñez, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton




t’s still set in Miami, it still begins with a car chase in a Porsche, and Detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are still partners – despite the fact that one of the primary conflicts in “Bad Boys II” was Marcus’ looming transfer away from his longtime pal. It’s just another detail that is dismissed in favor of getting the team back together. They’re also once again oblivious to the reckless endangerment caused by breaking every traffic law imaginable, and police Captain Conrad Howard (Joe Pantoliano) is inexplicably supportive of their grotesque irresponsibleness. The opening scene also reinforces the idea that it’s perfectly acceptable to put countless lives in danger when a member of law enforcement needs to get to the hospital for an important birth.

And, indeed, it’s Marcus’ daughter who is giving birth, making the proud detective a grandfather. Although there have been several events in his life so severe that they make him want to give up the dangers of his line of work (though apparently none of any gravity have occurred in the last 17 years), this new baby just might be a sign; perhaps he should retire and enjoy his family. Of course, this upsets Lowrey, who plans to live forever and continue catching bad guys. But that plan is interrupted as well when murderer Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo) breaks out of a Mexican prison in order to mastermind a plot of revenge against Mike. And she’ll use her son, Armando (Jacob Scipio), to unearth millions of dollars of her dead husband’s illicit fortunes to begin assassinating those responsible for taking down her crime family.

“This time, it’s different.” Unfortunately, that’s not true for the writing. Isabel’s jailbreak rips off “The Silence of the Lambs,” while her ruthlessness and strength are the same generic stuff of countless other actioners. And Armando is the worst of the bunch, succumbing to every trite routine and posturing of a Terminator-like villain – from killing his own goons to being impervious to bullets to having limitless resources to maintaining a permanent scowl. At one point, he does a simple internet search to track down his targets for stealthy sniper assassinations, while a long stretch in the middle involves a contrived reason not to simply kill Lowrey, who is perpetually outgunned and outmatched – and whose highly skilled squad is exceptionally powerless. Not only are the villains hopelessly forgettable, the heroes are much of the same as well, even if it’s amusing to see them fall back into their personas after all these years. It’s also no longer enough to have Mike and Marcus blow things up and strong-arm thugs; now they have to share the screen with a team of special agents (Paola Nuñez, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, and Charles Melton), each with specific skills – not unlike the last several “Fast and Furious” films and “Mission: Impossible” entries. “It’s time to make some changes, for real.”

Many of the shenanigans are the same, as are the jokes and the lead duo’s chemistry. Fortunately, Lawrence is finally allowed to function solely as comic relief – a part he should have played from the beginning of the franchise – allowing him to garner laughs while not competing against Smith’s ass-kicking machismo. He’s more at home cracking one-liners than wielding a gun or intimidating informants. Problematically, however, Smith isn’t as convincing in fistfights and stunts as he was more than a decade prior, making the fight sequences far from impressive. It’s funny that he’s the one to treat policework as a joke, resorting to brashness and downright illegal interrogations, while the special task force in charge insists upon using hi-tech surveillance equipment, safety procedures, and by-the-books infiltration – yet it’s Mike’s temerity, often resulting in colossal collateral damage, that proves more effective (“Everybody’s way too serious”). But, most disappointing for an action film, the set pieces are thoroughly wearisome; not a single action sequence stands out.

Additionally, the pacing is disturbed by a “six months later” intertitle, which makes a sizable chunk of the plot redundant, while an abundance of the humor centers around the young versus the old, and the sensible versus the foolhardy, despite Mike’s unavoidable involvement in all of the shootouts – and his age never limiting his stamina. Ultimately, the characters are so badly designed that they’re both meaningless and unbelievable; whether they live or die or succeed or fail holds no significance. No matter how big the explosions or how complex the car chases, when the heroes and villains are uninspired, their missions become inconsequential. And following along with the overlong arrangement of “Bad Boys II,” just when the climax should arrive, it merely segues into another act, finding the titular rogues jetting off to another country for a ludicrously goofy showdown.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10