Thursday, February 20, 2020

Movie Review: "Bad Boys for Life" (2020)

Director: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah
Year: 2020
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 4 minutes

Twenty-five years ago alllllllll the way back in 1995, director Michael Bay introduced the world to Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett in his dumb-but-slightly-fun-but-also-too-self-serious action flick "Bad Boys." Eight years later, in 2003, he followed it up with the much-longer-but-much-more-enjoyable-and-self-aware "Bad Boys II." 17 years have passed, and we have now finally gotten the third film in the franchise without Michael Bay in the director's chair. Maybe that's just what the series needed. "Bad Boys for Life" is directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. "Bulletproof" Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) becomes the target of assassination when Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo), the wife of a deceased drug kingpin, escapes from prison in an extremely violent manner. She tasks her son, Armando (Jacob Scipio), to restart the family business and to kill Mike and everyone else who had a hand in destroying it years ago. While Mike wants to uncover who is behind this assassination plot, his longtime partner, Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), is ready to hang up his badge and retire once and for all, especially now that he is a grandfather. While Marcus is on the bench, Mike gets teamed up with a young tactical team known as ASOC headed by his ex, Rita (Paola Nuñez), who, much to Mike's chagrin, is leading the investigation.
Photo: Martin Lawrence and Will Smith star in the 2020 film "Bad Boys for Life"
Photo: Martin Lawrence and Will Smith star in the 2020 film "Bad Boys for Life." (Image Source)
We have nothing against Michael Bay as a director. In fact, we have genuinely enjoyed some of his movies. Though we were never huge fans of the original "Bad Boys" film, we did think "Bad Boys II" was a decent watch. Sometimes, all you need is a new perspective to help make things click, and "Bad Boys for Life" absolutely clicks.

Will Smith remains his charming, suave, gun-and-gung-ho self and still looks like he's having a blast playing Mike Lowrey, even after all these years. Martin Lawrence has seemingly pushed through his personal troubles and has rediscovered his groove, bringing back the same brand of humor that made him such a hot commodity in the 90s. Smith and Lawrence reignite their dynamic chemistry in the first scene of this movie, and their hilarious banter and heartfelt brotherhood never let up once throughout the film.

Smith and Lawrence were never the problems with this series. The issues always stemmed from the lack of coherent, cohesive narratives. Under Michael Bay's tutelage, we feel like the audience was forced to suspend their disbelief one too many times. Adil and Bilall manage to bring that much-needed, much more consistent component to the franchise while still maintaining all of the explosions, car chases, and action we have come to expect from a Bay-helmed production. This is not to say the story here is perfect because it's not. It has its fair share of contrivances and cliched moments that might make your head spin (think: third act reveal, oy vey), but in all honesty, we were so entertained with what we were watching that we were able to forgive its flaws and enjoy it for the shockingly fun ride it was.

Another aspect of "Bad Boys for Life" that we like is the addition of the young ASOC team that counteracts the aging Lowrey (a man desperate to cling to his youth) and Burnett, who is at his full-on Danny Glover "I'm getting too old for this shit" "Lethal Weapon" phase. Charles Melton's character Rafe has a terrific playful rivalry with Mike that includes a lot of jokes about Mike's age, which frequently results in retorts about Rafe's mother (naturally!). Paola Nuñez's character Rita also has some great romantic tension with Smith's Lowrey. The two of them used to be in a relationship, and with Rita running the show, Mike's wants and desires for justice have to take a backseat to protocol and routine. Old standby Joe Pantoliano also returns as the Pepto Bismol-chugging, anxiety-riddled Captain Howard, and his routine with Lawrence and Smith hasn't lost its charm, either. Series newcomers Kate del Castillo and Jacob Scipio make for some vicious, wicked villains who seemingly have no remorse and want only to exact revenge on Mike for the wrongs he committed years ago.
Photo: Jacob Scipio and Kate del Castillo star as Isabel and Armando Aretas in "Bad Boys for Life," one of the best movies of 2020
Photo: Jacob Scipio and Kate del Castillo star as Isabel and Armando Aretas in "Bad Boys for Life" (2020). (Image Source)
"Bad Boys for Life" is our favorite movie in the "Bad Boys" series. We never in a million years thought we would say this, but if there should be a fourth installment in the "Bad Boys" franchise, we'll be there opening day with bells on. This is a total blast from start to finish.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
RT Rating: 76%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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