It’s been nearly 17 years since Will Smith and Martin Lawrence teamed up for Bad Boys II and while the times may have changed, the franchise is still trying to chase after those glory days Michael Bay explosions ruled the screen. Bad Boys for Life feels like a blast from the past, for both the good and the bad. It’s constantly teetering between over-the-top action and a ridiculous story that throws everything out the window as the franchise heads down the Fast and the Furious route. There are moments where it works, but overall it ends up mostly firing blanks.
Detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) have spent their entire lives putting dangerous criminals behind bars. For Mike, it’s just another day at the office, but Marcus finally feels his age catching up to him and decides it’s time to hang up his badge. But when an assassination attempt puts Mike in the hospital, the two partners team up with new crew of young officers for one last ride together.
Bad Boys for Life has a singular focus on the fact that Mike and Marcus are no longer the young go-getters they once were. While Marcus has accepted this fact and embraces retirement, Mike is still chasing after the bad guys and just generally causing chaos wherever he goes. It’s all very one-note; we get it, they’re old. It gets an easy laugh at first, but the humor quickly wears off. The action isn’t as good, either, so I was left wanting more on all fronts.
I will say that there are still a few moments where Will Smith and Martin Lawrence shine together. There’s a big chase scene in the middle of the film that shows them at their best, both in terms of dynamic and action. Bad Boys for Life is fantastic when it’s firing on all cylinders, but most of the time it feels like it’s just reminiscing about the past.
But by far the worst thing about Bad Boys for Life is its bonkers story. Like the Fast and the Furious franchise, the whole thing can be summed up in a single word; family. Without going too far into spoiler territory, the whole plot feels rushed and out of left field, especially when it comes to Mike and his past that comes back to haunt him. So much is introduced in this third film of the trilogy, and it catches you off guard because there has been absolutely no build up to these huge moments. It just gets more and more ridiculous as the movie progresses.
Clearly Bad Boys for Life is trying to embrace this over-the-top cheesiness and turn their franchise into more of a “universe.” The additions of Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, and Charles Melton as the new team is fine, but I honestly don’t see their characters going anywhere. Bad Boys for Life is about on par with the rest of the franchise; or at least my memory of it. While there are some great set pieces that play to the strengths of Smith and Lawrence, the majority of it will leave you longing for something else as there are better action movies out there that tell better stories.