Before Michael Bay became known for making big-budget action franchises, the famed director kicked off his career with Bad Boys. While Will Smith and Martin Lawrence were certainly known commodities, neither had action star written on their resumé. Their chemistry and humor fit into the pantheon of action films, drawing from Beverly Hills Cop and John Woo. Smith became the biggest star in the world, and Lawrence brought some of the best humor of his career. Twenty-five years later, the Smith and Lawrence buddy cop franchise continues to hold a nostalgic place in our hearts. With Bad Boys For Life, the two show they’ve still got something in the tank, and delivering a surprisingly high-quality sequel.
Bad Boys For Life picks up with our heroes Mike (Smith) and Marcus (Lawrence) as they rush to the hospital. Marcus (Lawrence) has become a grandfather, and he begins to asses his place in the force. Mike refuses to slow down, believing he can be a cop forever. After a series of assassinations have rocked the Miami community, the two cops begin their most personal investigation yet.
The real winning formula to any Bad Boys film stems from Smith and Lawrence. While the two have slowed down their own careers in recent years, the For Life gives them each retrospective storylines that comment on their careers. Smith fell out of the public consciousness as a box-office draw until last year’s Aladdin. In the 2000s, no actor was more of a sure bet than Smith, and losing a step makes stars question their role in Hollywood. Returning to the role that helped transform his acting career was far from a retread for Smith. In fact, he brings a shocking level of emotion to the story, quickly reminding the audience of his incredible likability and charm. Complete with typical shirtless sequences in the Bad Boys films, Smith owns the film.
Meanwhile, Lawrence actively stepped away from Hollywood. In the past decade, Lawrence took on supporting roles and tried his hand at TV for the first time since his iconic sitcom Martin. Rather than embarrass himself, it seems that Lawrence’s time away from the spotlight made the heart grow fonder. For Life makes efforts to put Lawrence in the best position to succeed, making Marcus a modern-day Murtaugh. He remains an excellent fit for the straight-laced cop, and Lawrence gets plenty of opportunities to hold his own against Smith. It’s clear their partnership puts them on equal footing, and that makes BB For Life a fun ride.
The ensemble features some standout performances as well. The new crew, AMMO, backs up our boys with some badass action sequences. Surprisingly, Alexaner Ludwig, Vanessa Hudgens, and Charles Melton are up to the task. The group’s leader, Paola Nuñez gets the standout material and cashes in on her time with Smith.
The villains are the best in the franchise to date. Kate del Castillo comes across as one of the most menacing action villainesses in some time. She plays up the supernatural elements of the character, but you can tell she’s unstable from her first seconds on screen. You can tell the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, with her in-universe son Jacob Scipio matching Smith’s physicality. He gets to show off genuinely cool fight sequences that feel more at home in a Raid film than a Bad Boys flick. Rather than being a drug kingpin, we’re treated to an excellent revenge plot, and both Scipio and Castillo should find themselves in more American films moving forward.
Directors Adil el Arbi and Bilall Fallah certainly surprise as technical directors. While the original Bad Boys films were never short on stuntwork, Bad Boys For Life delivers plenty of franchise best work. The sound team stands out, with the expertly precise balance of gunfire and Miami-based music. We get excellent montages and you can hear the change in weaponry on the soundscape. They mix-in some fun cinematography from Robrecht Heyvaert, who plays up the neon of Miami. Drawing from the template from Bay, this Bad Boys looks better than previous entries in the franchise, which should help it hold up with time.
You already know whether you’re in or out on Bad Boys For Life. Fans of the franchise will flock to this in droves. It’s an undeniably exciting and fun time spent with Mike and Marcus. For those on the fence, Smith and Lawrence’s return to the big leagues should be plenty of reason to see the latest entry. Bad Boys earns the raves, and it was the perfect film to kickoff 2020.