Bad Boys for Life (2020)

I have a couple of questions when it comes to Bad Boys for Life. The first is, if a fourth movie is at least potentially in the cards, why didn’t the save this title for that chapter. Then you can replace the “for” with the number 4 and get instant street cred. The second is how can these men, who are now in their 50s, still be called “bad boys.” Thankfully, the movie comments on this, and that’s when I first started thinking that maybe this movie might be okay.

It’s been 17 years since the last Bad Boys movie, so the fact that we have a new movie is something of a miracle, at least for fans of the franchise. Too-long sequels generally aren’t very good, relying on nostalgia and clinging to the past too much to be effective in the year they’re released. But, for fans, it comes down to getting another story with the characters they enjoy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. This third Bad Boys movie is better than it has any right to be, mostly by not being as aggressively in-your-face as its predecessors. It’s mellowed in its old age.

For the uninitiated, Bad Boys follows two detectives, Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence). In the first movie, their billing was reversed. The two stars have obviously had very different career trajectories since. They’re partners, and have been for a long time, but they’re starting to see the end. Well, one of them is. Burnett’s family life is starting to take priority, while Lowrey wants to ride until they die. He almost does just that when he’s the target of an assassination attempt, but soon enough is out of hospital and determined to take down his assailant. Burnett decides to retire.

The plot is simple. Lowrey, now without his partner, has to learn to work within a group dynamic and take more of a backseat role, while Burnett has to figure out exactly where his priorities lie. All the while, more assassinations are happening, there may or may not be a connection to the characters’ past, and … no, that’s pretty much it. Like I said, it’s a basic story. Did you expect more? It’s a Bad Boys movie, guys. You pretty much know what you’re getting into.

This new one is better than its predecessors because it takes its protagonists and their desires more seriously. The first two movies are junky and do not care about doing anything that isn’t brash, in-your-face, and bombastic. Oh, the action scenes in this one are still kind of like this, but the between-the-action moments which focus on the characters are so much stronger that you almost forget that these are the same people you watched two decades ago. It’s not going to get confused for some deep drama, but any sort of depth and development is appreciated.

The first two movies were directed by Michael Bay, who for better or worse has his style and sensibilities and sticks to them. He didn’t direct Bad Boys for Life. The duo of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah did. They made a better version of a Michael Bay Bad Boys than Bay did. It’s less nasty, more emotionally resonant, and just as competent in its action. If there’s another one, bring them back.

Bad Boys for Life is a more mature version of a Bad Boys movie. Its characters are more reflective and engaging because of this, the action is still good, and it’s less offensive and aggressive. The result? Probably the best of the franchise, and the only one I’d potentially want to watch again. It’s the first time these characters have mattered, and I mostly enjoyed our time together this go-round.

Conclusion: Bad Boys for Life is the best movie in its franchise.

Recommendation: Fans will already want to go see Bad Boys for Life, but even non-fans might finally warm to these characters.

  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10

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