Movie Review: “Bad Boys for Life”

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The chemistry’s still there. A lot of years, a few pounds and some suspicious hairlines don’t change that.

Maybe the idea of a wheezing foot-race to settle a bet is laughable. But as the jokes don’t land the way they used to — maybe 20%, now — that’s fine.

And some people are going to be nostalgic for Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as “Bad Boys,” misty-eyed for the sorts of glossy, glibly-ultraviolent action comedies that were the norm in the ’80s and ’90s.

So “Bad Boys for Life” is sure to be a hit, recycling that bullets, blood and bagpipes formula, topped by two good buddies saying “Bad Boys.”  A LOT.

But man oh man…

“Look at this mess,” the funniest guy in the movie (Joe Pantoliano) fusses. “It’s…it’s CARNAGE.”

Indeed it is. A sloppy script with the dumbest “surprise twist” tacked on as a punchline, a poorly-developed villain (Jacob Scipio), hot cars hurtling through a neon-glow, “Merry Old Land of Oz” version of Miami Beach (Ocean Drive? A parking lot!), that’s for starters. Then there are the buckets and buckets of blood — blood bursts, arterial spray, characters joking about “muscle shirts and body counts,” eye-rolling at a beloved snitch who’s just landed on Marcus’s (Lawrence) minivan.

Bagpipes? You know what they mean in a cop picture.

It’s not just the carnage. It’s the cliches.

Settled family guy Marcus (Lawrence) has become a granddad. He’s talking “retirement.” Swinging single Mike (Smith) won’t hear of it.

“Bad Boys for Life!” As if that ends the argument.

Only Mike getting shot will bring Marcus back, and even then it’s only after Marcus has prayed Mike back to life and made a bargain with the Almighty.

“I will put no more violence in this world!”

Fat chance.

Eventually, working with a task force for named “AMMO” and run by one of Mike’s exes (Paola Nuñez), including the shortest cop ever — Vanessa Hudgens — rocking the coolest cop hair ever, they stumble their way through nightclubs, stoned accountants, arms dealers and snitches towards La Bruja (the witch) running it all (Kate del Castillo), a Mexican mobster who escapes from prison, bathed in blood, in the film’s opening scene.

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What you come for here, aside from nostalgia, is the excess, and “Gangsta” directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah serve that up in heaping helpings. Characters topple into pools of blood, all manner of vehicle is raced and blown up. And Miami has never looked sexier on the screen.

Smith may be nearing his expiration date as an action star — not so much due to age as to his own inability to work up the enthusiasm — and let us see it — in these roles. But Lawrence is that can of Spam that you’re afraid to open 26 years after the Zombie Apocalypse — WAY past expiration. He’s still not much of an actor, but he doesn’t let down the side the way he did in the last decade of his faded film career.

“Sorry rich white people!” Perfect line to shout as you’re racing a Porsche over the sand of South Beach.

The big chase and big shootout are WAY over the top, but few age gags work, Joey Pants (Pantoliano, as their captain) works up a fine rant or two, no-talent self-promoter DJ Khaled gets the ass-kicking we’ve all been waiting for and Mike makes the worst wedding toast in human history.

“We ride together, we DIE together!”

But it’s not as if “Bad Boys” (1995) and “Bad Boys II” were all that. Three movies in, and we know less about these two than ever. Still, lower the expectations bar enough and you won’t be disappointed.

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MPAA Rating: R, or Strong Bloody Violence, Language Throughout, Sexual References, and Brief Drug Use

Cast: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Kate del Castillo, Jacob Scipio, Paola Nuñez , Vanessa Hudgens and Joe Pantoliano

Credits:Directed by Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah, script by Chris Bremmer, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan.  A Sony/Columbia release.

Running time: 2:03

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