Bad Boys For Life (2020) Movie Review

I always wondered where “Whatcha gonna do when they come for you” emerged from.

After 17 years since we last saw Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, who are played by two of the most recognizable actors in history so I need not give them introductions, Burnett is considering retiring from the Bad Boys duet. He’s now a grandfather and he’s trying to handle a proper, but sort of crazy, regular life. After a fun bar night post-daughter-wedding celebration, Lowrey challenges Burnett to a race around the block. Burnett wins, he’s allowed to retire. Lowrey wins, Bad Boys For Life. It seems Lowrey’s about to win, but then an odd (well, I guess it’s not odd, really) helmeted motorcyclist sprays Mike with a round of gunshots that favor his odds of survival at 12 to 1. To add salt to the gashes, there’s proof this cyclist has killed half a dozen former officials in the law enforcement business, the full connection not yet known. Mike ends up being the only survivor from one of these attacks by this assassin, and he vows to get him and show him what violence really is, especially when his defeat is deliberately uploaded to YouTube, but Marcus explains he saw Mike in a coma, in critical condition, hanging on for life for days, on life support he had to assist, and this debacle just isn’t worth his life. We’ll see what Mike thinks of that, and we’ll see how long it takes to get his longtime pal back behind the bazooka. 

I wanted to see Bad Boys For Life but then stopped myself. I decided it would be best to watch the original first, because there have been too many movies I’ve seen recently with established fan bases that I haven’t done my homework on. I watched the 1995 Bad Boys a few days ago and did not love it, but the identity swap to trick Tea Leoni’s character Julie, the drug heist at the beginning, some banter seemingly ahead of its time and a hilarious phone-call misunderstanding that drives Martin Lawrence’s character bananas…It was an enjoyable flick. I haven’t yet seen Bad Boys II, but a lot of critics said Smith and Lawrence were essentially rogue sociopaths going through an epiphany of mindless explosions in that movie. I might still see the film sometime and keep an open mind; critics loathed Michael Bay’s second Transformers movie, Revenge of the Fallen, yet I consider it one of the best action movies of all time. You never know till you look.

So down to this brand new third installment. A lot of it seems centered around its longtime fan-base. Even if the last two Bad Boys films weren’t critically praised, they were certainly audience praised, and there are plenty of hip pop songs, flashy dance parties and take-no-bull dialogue here that seems like it never second-guesses itself. The movie never stops moving. There are also some showcases of the ghettos of Miami, where people are screwed over by the super-wealthy but they still both manage and find time to have fun. It’s often refreshing when films take place in those areas.

But now for some blows. There are some moments of discomfort here and there. The two main antagonists are both Latino and reside in Mexico, which at this point I’m tired of seeing. I want to see more Latinos and Arabs as the good guys in big action films, it’s too easy and dangerous to keep undermining them. I maybe wouldn’t have had this attitude if Smith’s character Mike Lowrey wasn’t so pro-violence toward whoever attempted to assassinate him, and so adamant towards his view that Marcus was taking the coward’s way out, but there it was. Yes, violence is meant to be entertaining. But today in the real world, there’s violence everywhere which brings nothing but tragedy and more people wanting there to be a real Purge night. The way to counter this violence discomfort should be to have protagonists who we want to see prevail, but I actually really didn’t care if Lowrey was going to get the shooter or not, a flaw that nearly dropped this film down to a C or C-minus (I guess I just don’t like unapologetically relentless people and sometimes a sense of humour can’t remedy that). But its final half hour has just enough to pull it back to harbor.

There’s a chase scene nearing the end which may have the familiar villains-can’t-shoot schematic, but it’s at least reminiscent of a similar and dynamic chase from the 25-year-old original, with a few extra clever choreography points, like Smith’s vehicle shoving Lawrence’s station-wagon-without-the-station out of the way, and running into a wad of gasoline barrels. There are some short but dynamic and even funny on-foot chases to spare. There’s a realization which makes us sympathize with Lowrey a little more than we did prior. Smith and Lawrence are clearly long-time friends just as they’re playing long-time partners. They both never falter with their snappiness towards each other, and whenever one of them barks, it’s hard not to chuckle, as long as they’re not barking down each other’s throats. Then we hope they somehow recover.

Without the chemistry between Smith and Lawrence, this would be classified as another check-the-dots explosion thriller. But it’s got it. I was close to not recommending it though, so I would only wholeheartedly recommend this film if you’re already fully in the Bad Boys clique.

If you like this film, I would try: Peppermint, the other Bad Boys films, 21 Jump Street

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