Twenty-five years ago there was a buddy cop movie called Bad Boys and, eight years later, a sequel called Bad Boys II. Both were popular. Critics liked the easy back-and-forth between detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) but hated the derivative, unoriginal, explosion-laden plots.
Now the Bad Boys are middle-aged and back for another go. Of the three films, this is regarded as the best by far.
Mike and Marcus are older, yes, but not that changed. The film opens with Mike behind the wheel of his shiny Porsche, handling it like a stunt driver while Marcus frets in the passenger seat. They are in a hurry to get to the hospital to meet Martin’s new grandson. Martin dreams of retirement and playing with young Marcus while Mike has no plan to slow down, not ever.
Then problems arise in Miami. The widow of a drug lord the Bad Boys put away escapes from prison herself and directs her son to settle scores by executing the public officials she blames. The son shoots Mike in the stomach with an assault rifle as he pops a wheelie on his motorcycle.
Mike wants Marcus to work with him on finding the shooter. Marcus hems and haws and finally agrees. Their longtime captain (Joe Pantoliano) resists but then relents a bit, allowing the two to “observe” as his younger, more tech-savvy detectives do their investigation.
But Mike is from the old school. He handcuffs one potential witness to a metal fixture and then shouts out questions while he has the guy in a headlock. In another case, Mike kicks open a door and aims a big pistol on a man. (Interesting in a day when police departments are outfitting officers with bodycams.)
As the story unspools there are the now-common explosions and shootings in various settings but also something a bit unusual — several family stories, including Martin’s plus one or possibly two for Mike toward the end. And, to be fair, there is a lot of humor in the interchanges between Mike and Marcus, two characters known to the audience and happy to lay into the plot’s gags with fine timing and great zest.
The movie is nicely filmed with gorgeous establishing shots of Miami and Biscayne Bay. One interesting touch comes when dead bodies fall out of windows in the upper stories of Miami Beach’s famous Broadmoor Hotel, and — oops! — one lands on the roof of Marcus’ wife’s minivan, making a largish dent.
Perhaps the difference between this Bad Boys film and its two predecessors is that the first two were directed by Michael Bay, who is best-known for directing the Transformers movies that perhaps did not allow for much exploration of the characters’ personal lives. The current film was directed by Belgians Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, who made a gang-oriented Romeo & Juliet-type film that was popular in Europe.
This is not the time of year when really promising movies are released. In Southern California particularly, tout Los Angeles is busy seeing, or re-seeing, Oscar-nominated movies in anticipation of next month’s Academy Awards program. Except for the apparently awful new Dr. Doolittle film, there’s not much new in theaters.
But Bad Boys for Life has been very well received. A fourquel now is planned.
The trailers before this movie included SIX previews whose stories involve lots of guns and shooting (just in the previews.) Interesting drama requires conflict, and I get that there is an audience for such. But sometimes I wonder why gun-control advocates get more cheesed off about the National Rifle Association than a film industry that courts young viewers, particularly young men, with movie after movie of handsome actors shooting handguns and assault weapons and flame throwers, and lobbing grenades, and setting off bombs. We know that people take fashion tips from actors and celebrities. Is it not possible that we also are influenced by watching stories in which armed fighters go after each other on the streets?