Back in 1995, Michael Bay redeveloped the action-comedy into the loud, explosive yet colourful genre it is today, thanks to the release of the original Bad Boys movie. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who wasn’t at least amused by the antics of Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence). However, after 25 years and a forgettable middle chapter, one of these Miami detectives seems to have lost who he is in the shuffle. While as a comedy vehicle, Bad Boys for Life works just fine thanks to Lawrence, Smith seems to have lost his rhythm as Lowrey and despite a film that plays to that, it never really feels connected in the same way.
Following the two as they must contend with an assassin killing people involved in one of Mike’s old cases they team up for one last case together as Marcus approaches retirement. However, now they must change the way they do things, as a new era of cops, with a different bag of tricks are given the lead. However when things get personal Mike can’t help but take the lead once again.
Despite a change in directors from mainstay Michael Bay to directing pair Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, the transition is an oddly smooth one. This version of Miami is still the same overly saturated, bright place where even if a particularly bloody shootout is taking place, it still looks oddly…pretty? Even when a corpse lands on Marcus’ car in one of the films funnier moments it cannot break the mood thanks to an understanding of the world the directing pair has stepped into. The issue here is a script more focused on Mike & Marcus’ legacy instead of the story at hand.
Instead of a trilogy capper, Bad Boys for Life feels more like the opening chapter of a new story, one that has moved from the notion of brotherhood to one of family. In a way, it feels like the series is evolving into an understudy of the Fast & Furious movies. Not only does a duo turn into a team of new and sometimes effective bit players but plenty of time is spent developing new mythology that never really meshes. Smith does his best to make his unfortunate character ‘development’ work but as the focal point of the film’s plot, it just proves too much to swallow, serving as an anchor instead.
While Bad Boys was never a serious of heavy emotions or serious thinking, it in some ways revolved around the notion of growing up and changing while still holding onto a certain youthful element, never losing the fun. While amusing in places, fast-paced in others it never sinks into a routine, constantly misfiring thanks to a few false starts and some dramatic overreaching. Taking it way too seriously, Mike’s latest problem feels like one that the series cannot come back from and with word of a fourth instalment on the way, I can’t see a way this story can get any better.