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‘Bad Boys for Life’ has all the feels of a ’90s buddy comedy and it might be the best of the trilogy

 By Jonathan Shuping 

January 17, 2020

In the spring of 1995, producing behemoths Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop) tapped a little known music video director named Michael Bay to helm their latest action blockbuster, Bad Boys. It was a haymaker of a swing, and with his swirling, tracking hero shots and spectacular explosions, Bay took two television sitcom actors and transformed them into big screen stars while cold-cocking the buddy-comedy subgenre to a new level.

Now, 25 years later (and 17 years after the sequel) Will Smith and Martin Lawrence reunite as Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, partners in crime fighting for one last ride… maybe. Was anyone clamoring for more Bad Boys? Probably not. But should you see this movie? Absolutely!

Will Smith as Mike Lowrey and Martin Lawrence as Marcus Burnett. Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

While Michael Bay is no longer behind the camera he’s not completely uninvolved. This go around the torch has been passed to the Belgian directing team of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. (Never heard of them? You soon will. Their follow up to Bad Boys for Life is the upcoming Beverly Hills Cop 4.) All swish pans and snap zooms, their style is kinetic and loaded with adrenaline. The bone crushingly violent shootouts and pulse-pounding action sequences are exhilarating, highlighted by a hysterically raucous motorcycle chase with Martin Lawrence in a sidecar. And, of course, there are plenty of lush Miami sunset shots that surely make the local tourism bureau beam.

Will Smith as Mike Lowrey and Martin Lawrence as Marcus Burnett. Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

The debut script from screenwriter Chris Bremner along with veteran crime scribes Joe Carnahan (Narc) and Peter Craig (The Town) is a tour-de-force, relentlessly firing off sharp-witted dialogue and continuously lobbing humor grenades in an ever-escalating pedal to the metal pace, just like one of the film’s breakneck chase scenes.

If you’re wondering if these guys are too old to be running and fighting, that thought is certainly not lost on the filmmakers. They deftly incorporate crafty gags concerning midlife issues that manage to avoid falling into the typical pits of mere cliche. And, in contrast to the first two Bad Boys films– where the maverick detectives matched wits with seasoned, cerebral villains– this time the weathered dynamic duo takes on a vicious young cartel assassin and his equally scary and vengeful matriarch mother. It’s a fine combo of antagonists unlike those that Mike and Marcus have previously faced and they don’t do a lot of angry yelling; they’re stealthy, they’re mean, and they strike like rattlesnakes.

Martin Lawrence as Marcus Burnett and Will Smith as Mike Lowrey, Charles Melton as Rafe, Vanessa Hudgens as Kelly, Alexander Ludwig as Dorn, and Paola Núñez as Rita. Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

The chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence is better than ever. Whether taking jabs at each other or cracking wise with the bad guys, they’re as funny safely riding in a car together as they are hanging perilously over a blazing inferno. In fact, both somewhat surprisingly resurge to their peak ’90s form, especially Lawrence in a turn that easily bests any performance of his past decade. As a bonus, the amazing, peppery Joe Pantoliano reprises his role as cantankerous Captain Howard, and DJ Khaled is solid in a limited but opportune role.

Martin Lawrence as Marcus Burnett and Will Smith as Mike Lowrey. Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Bad Boys for Life is an utter crowd pleaser and surely the best of the trilogy. While there are plenty of callback jokes to the previous two installments it is by no means a prerequisite for enjoyment. For pure action movie junkies looking to escape the weightiness of recent darlings like Joker or 1917, this will be a delight. This thrill-a-minute rollercoaster of a movie is an absolute blast, a cathartic throwback with two iconic heroes in the driver’s seat. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Star Rating:  4 out of 5

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