Bad Boys for Life Review
Updated: Jan 28, 2020
Bad boys Mike Lowry (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) return in Bad Boys for Life for one last hurrah. Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillio) is looking to avenge the death of her drug-lord husband, killed at the hands of Mike and Marcus. She sends her son (Armando) to do the dirty work and this feud forms the basis of the film's narrative drive. This typical revenge plot could have been lifted straight from the Fast and Furious franchise and deserves to be called a rudimentary and basic production. The 'plot twists', (if you can call them that), seem bland and unoriginal but do serve a purpose in bloating the running time of the film to an exhaustive 2 hours. Though there are some good moments in this film, I was disappointed by its mindless paint-by-numbers approach. It felt like an early 2000's blockbuster rather than the more progressive and nuanced films released this year.
The directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah have used the pre-established tropes set out in previous action comedies in this less than revolutionary production. The film is filled with slow motion shots of expensive cars, typical shots of bikini-clad women and plain, straight gratuitous violence. I enjoyed the action sequences, (particularly the night-club scene), the large blockbuster set pieces, big weapons, fast cars and many, many explosions were a lot of fun. Though I criticise, this film was a solid piece of mindless entertainment and exactly what I expected. It is a loud, shameless blockbuster. It has some fun scenes but fails to do anything new or interesting.
Will Smith plays the lead Mike Lowry, a suave and fearless character, who refuses to retire (hence the endless repetitions of "Bad Boys for Life," his catchphrase) whilst Martin Lawrence is his counterpart, ready to retire after the birth of his grand-daughter. This creates a good amount of humour and allows the film to attempt at a deeper moral meaning, the importance of family life and settling down. Though this is certainly something played out across the genre on whole, it adds a moralising element and emphasises the struggles of ageing. The unwillingness to give up on the past and face the future is something Mike grapples with throughout and is a plot point that is never fully realised. The resolution is never achieved, and Mike's character arc is never completed. Will Smith's performance is solid and even emotionally resonates with the audience in the third act, but the incompleteness and disappointment in how his character is handled influences my entire view on the film. The humorous elements that offset the emotional points comes through from Lawrence as he settles into his retirement and tries to keep out of the way of his wife. The light-feeling fun nature of this film is encapsulated in his performance and is one of the strongest factors recommending it.
The lead actress Vanessa Hudgens (Kelly) is a member of a tech driven Miami Metro team called AMMO, and though her performance is fine, it is completely whitewashed by the male members of the cast. Actors such as Alexander Ludwig (Dorn), who is given both personality and backstory. He overshadows Hudgens completely making the film very male-centric. Given the rise in female dominated casts and nuanced and thoughtful female characters it is heart-breaking to see such a step back. The female characters in this film being either two dimensional (Kelly) or romantically linked to a male lead (I.E. Rita who is played by Paola Nunez).
This film was a disappointing mixture of uninspired plot and classic blockbuster scenes, the choice to ignore recent developments and include underdeveloped female characters made Bad Boys for Life a true homage to action films of the early 2000's. Despite the many criticisms I have heaped upon this film, it has smashed the opening box office predictions (grossing $100 million worldwide.) As a result, the sequel has been greenlit and I apologise because this will inevitably lead to more people suffering through it. All I can wish for, is that this series can be dragged into the 21st century in some way.