Bad Boys for Life

How many times in the past 17 years since ‘Bad Boys II”  have you heard, “they really need to make a Bad Boys III?” You can’t help but wonder after the string of disappointments bearing Will Smith’s name (“Gemini Man,” “Bright,” “Collateral Beauty,” “Concussion,” “Focus) if he’s simply reviving old franchises to stay active. The original 1995 “Bad Boys” was a modest Michael Bay action movie that relied more on the script, acting, and practicality than action movies did a decade later when the sequel landed with a thud. Nineties action films had a particular appeal, before “Fast & the Furious” redefined expectations, they were more simplistic. “Bad Boys For Life” is trying to exist both as a modern-day action film with the mindset of flicks from another era. This latest installment is just another desperate nostalgia reboot that’s mediocre at best. “Nothing sadder than old men revisiting the past,” is the most appropriate line from the script.

Miami Detective Mike Lowrey (Smith) has remained the same guy for 25 years, only now, as his partner Detective Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) points out, he is coloring that goatee. Marcus just became a grandfather and has decided to leave the wild-life behind and settle into retirement. Mike is still unmarried, but his past comes back with a vengeance. The two men now on opposite paths need each other more than ever to survive the most dangerous case of their 25-year partnership. The two infamous cops team up with Miami’s latest special unit called AMMO with Mike’s former flame Rita (Nuñez) leading the force. However, bullets won’t work against a Bruja’s black magic that’s aimed at Mike’s past discretions.

. “Bad Boys For Life” is trying to exist both as a modern day action film with the mindset of flicks from another era.

“I’m living my best life,” Mike says, “I’m ready to turn up.” In which Marcus replies, that he needs to “turn that {expletive} off.” This sums up my basic attitude about Will Smith’s current career choices. The 51-years-old “Aladdinstar is in Tom Cruise territory, desperately trying to prove he is still the same action star he was in his late ’20s. The only difference is Smith and Lawrence lean into the comedy surrounding their age. The screenplay pulls and borrows aging action star jokes (James Bond, Indiana Jones), it literally copies the climax of “Silence of the Lambs” famous escape in the opening scene. Later there is a scene borrowed from “Jurassic Park, and by then it is obvious the three screenwriters are beating us over the head with action movie references from the ’90s.

While Bay isn’t the director this time around, his cameo suggests he is still interested in the project with a fourth installment already in the works. Will Smith would find more respect, and meaningful success, if he used his talent and money to produce smaller films that might aid filmmakers of color struggling to find backing (i.e. Brad Pitt, Tyler Perry, Reese Witherspoon). There’s so much more Smith could offer the world of cinema than another discardable action movie where an egotistical 50-year-old is trying to prove he’s still able. From the car sequences to gunfights and life or death situations, “Bad Boys for Life” can’t match something like “6 Underground.”  Action movies in 2020 have to work on a different level. Nostalgia can only take you so far, and Bad Boys is a one watch type of movie that spends too much time throwing back to the original that few even remember.

Final Thought

Bad Boys For Life armed with endless rounds of action clichés and non-stop character stereotypes, relies heavily on explosive amounts nostalgia that only fans who have seen the originals multiple times will understand.


4 thoughts on “Bad Boys for Life”

  1. Not very insightful to say that only fans of the previous installments will like or understand this. My husband is a case in point as he hasn’t seen any of the previous films and doesn’t enjoy most action movies overall. He screened it on Monday and loved the movie more than he dares to admit (he’s a Mubi subscriber, which says it all). I get that this is the type of film that critics love to hate, but if I may, you sort of miss the point with your audience assumptions in your review — the film works precisely because it delivers on what the audience expects from it in terms of obvious 90’s nostalgia and doesn’t challenge one’s thinking. It’s a time capsule which provides pure escapism with its trashy exuberance, familiar tropes, reinforced stereotypes or liberal use of guns, violence, and swearing. People will pay to reconnect with a moment or feeling which is part of the fabric of their childhood / youth and in order to be transported to a more simple time.

    1. I agree with you, I just think that the people you speak of, are in a small majority. Sure, people will buy tickets who haven’t seen the original(s), and enjoy the “no thinking required” entertainment aspect of this discard-able action flick. I am just not one of those people, I expect more from any and every film. I just personally think the sequel relies too heavily on nostalgia, and as I have polled many of my friends and colleagues of various nationalities, ages, and sexes, I have found few that have even seen the original, and fewer who remember anything about the plot of the 1995 original.

  2. Wait, “Reese Witherspoon” is a person of color now? You literally wrote that in your review. SMH. I enjoyed the film, regardless

    1. What I “literally” wrote in my review was this…
      You “literally” read it wrong…

      “Will Smith would find more respect, and meaningful success, if he used his talent and money to produce smaller films that might aid filmmakers of color struggling to find backing (i.e. Brad Pitt, Tyler Perry, Reese Witherspoon).” I’m expecting the viewer to be aware of the projects those artists have produced with other filmmakers like Witherspoon producing Truth Be Told directed by Nichelle D. Tramble, Perry producing something like Precious, Pitt producing films like Moonlight, 12 Years a Slave or this years The Last Black Man in SF, etc etc.

      I am referencing Pitt, Perry and Witherspoon who produce films with ‘filmmakers’ of color.

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