Bad Boys for Life review

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The best Bad Boys in the franchise and a solid action movie that shows the buddy cop genre still has something to offer.

Bad Boys II, the previous film in the franchise was released in 2003 and suffered the same weaknesses that most Michael Bay films endure – too many explosions, a lack of character depth and emotion. But this all seemed to have been left in the past, with new directing duo Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi pushing Will Smith and Martin Lawrence to bring their best performance, as they returned to their respective roles of Mike Lowrey and Marcus Bunett.

With both characters being older than 50 and Marcus witnessing the birth of his granddaughter, his attempt to retire is short-lived following an assignation attempt on Lowrey, what follows is an exploration into Lowrey’s past and a plethora of age-related jokes. Likewise, the somewhat cliché threat of a younger, more technically advanced team of detectives, called AMMO lingers, until the inevitable team-up at the end.

Although not as self-aware as 21 Jump Street and its sequel, the film does not try to hide the fact that neither men are in their prime, especially Lawrence, who is further relegated to a more comedic role in this instalment. Nevertheless, Lawrence’s performance is genuinely funny and the role allows for skilful expression of emotional range, whilst providing a few moments that places him in the action seat.

Smith seems to show now sign of slowing down, taking a leaf out of Tom Cruise’s book. Very much the front man in the movie, Smith still sells a convincing action lead and a somewhat ironic and amusing counterpart to Lawrence, who seems content to be slowing down. Having had a relatively weaker few previous cinematic outings, both in the box office and critic reviews, Smith seemed adamant on proving himself, with Fallah and El Arbi succeeding in getting an emotional performance out of him and self-reflection. Though how the character hasn’t been fired for Police brutality in the 17 years since the last movie is perhaps one of the few questions raised through the film.

The younger counterparts, played by Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig and Charles Melton are mostly side-lined for most of the film, an unfortunate, yet understandable relegation that does not allow them to fully immerse themselves into their roles. Despite this all three are charming editions, selling their characters convincingly – although I’m not fully sure the obligatory High School Musical joke was needed.

Actual Bad Boy Jacob Scipio sold himself convincingly as a villain, offering an impressive physicality to the role, though the ease through which he found himself assassinating public figures perhaps warranted more explanation. His on-screen mother Kate del Castillo was fantastically creepy as the witch/wife of a former-cartel leader, her limited appearance in the film a worthy pay off for the gravitas she commanded when on screen – though the mother and son chemistry between the pair felt somewhat wooden, perhaps due to most of their interaction taking place over the phone.

The action scenes that appear are spectacular and seem to be a step-up from the previous two films in the series. Gone are the shaky cams, quick cuts and overwhelming sounds, with Fallah and El Arbi providing greater focus and a greater sense of the surrounding, but still offering the viewer the occasional grandiose moment.

The film provides plenty of Easter-eggs and references for veterans of the franchise (who could be as old the leading pair at this point) but remains open for anyone looking for a good action flick. Most younger viewers will probably be familiar with the franchise from the classic Hot Fuzz line ‘You ain’t seen Bad Boys II?’.

More importantly, it showed that the cop genre in its purest form is still alive and kicking following Brooklyn 99’s tv dominance and the Jump Street films.

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