Movie Review: Bad Boys For Life
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by Jason Koenigsberg
Bad Boys for Life is more than just another excuse for a violent and mediocre trip down memory lane. Although one would never guess that from the trailers or the opening shots which include water, fast cars, cityscapes of Miami, and a lot of cuts where we meet our main characters Martin Lawrence and Will Smith speeding through traffic over the opening credits. This movie was in preproduction hell for years with various screenwriters, producers and directors attached for a long time it is incredible it was actually made. Bad Boys for Life is a more thoughtful picture than one would probably expect about our main characters growing older, not being able to do what they used to do with ease, and dealing with their mortality. This is a much more shrewd movie than most will probably give it credit for.
A smarter than average action flick but not without its flaws. There is racial based humor right away and throughout which gets tiresome, along with a lot of forced religious jokes to appease church goers. Plus the co-directors really copied Michael Bay (who directed the first two Bad Boys movies and even makes a cameo in this one) with his style, making one wish that he directed Bad Boys for Life instead of the recent Netflix dud 6 Underground. There is a lot of unnecessary slow motion and the action scenes felt overproduced and unstimulating like a lesser Michael Bay movie. To the filmmakers credit they did a good job duplicating the cinematography which made the Miami of Bad Boys for Life look exactly like the Miami from Bad Boys 1 and 2. The plot involves drug dealers who want revenge on Will Smith’s character and there are a few narrative twists revealed along the way. But for the most part the plot is just an excuse to have some big action set pieces. Also, most of the supporting actors left a lot to be desired. Will Smith’s love interest in the film, Paola Nunez, felt like a poor man’s Morena Baccarin, and they did not have any chemistry, and the villains despite having some heavy dramatic moments, underwhelmed and are never convincing enough beyond being actors playing a part. But there is still something that kept me enthralled during most of Bad Boys for Life and I figured out what it is.
Something happened about thirty minutes into Bad Boys for Life and I realized that I was actually having fun with what easily could have been a derivative and mundane sequel. Bad Boys for Life has some unexpected surprises that made me lean forward in my seat waiting for the possible big reveal (like the newest Star Wars film) that what we just saw did not actually happen. But this movie has big cojones. It managed to pull the rug out from under the audience and let us take the fall with the characters and honestly, it was the characters that made this movie work as well as it does. Bad Boys for Life tailored the script for its stars and their age. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence played their characters Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett perfectly. They are engaging and make the audience care about what is happening even when they are not sharing the screen together. That is by far the number one reason to see Bad Boys for Life. It felt good to see Martin Lawrence back in action and this is one of Will Smith’s best movies in a long time. It was also nice to see Theresa Randle back on the big screen as Martin Lawrence’s wife from the first two films. This is her first movie in ten years according to imdb.com and the first time I have seen her in anything since Bad Boys II (2003) and she still looks great. Back in the 90’s she was in some big releases such as Malcolm X (1992), Space Jam (1996), and Spawn (1997) among others then just sort of disappeared. Joe Pantoliano returns as the Chief and provides some comic relief as well as some emotional moments. I think those four actors are the only ones to appear in all three Bad Boys movies. The solid backbone of the screenplay and the way Martin Lawrence and Will Smith connect with the audience make Bad Boys for Life one of the most pleasantly surprising movies to confidently recommend.
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