The latest film by Belgian directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, Bad Boys for Life had been in development hell for more than 15 years. Amid continual production issues, changing directors and mounting costs, there was a chance that fans would not see Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey on the big screen again. But early last year, filming began on the threequel of this buddy-cop series.
Bad Boys For Life sees the duo is at a professional crossroads – brash Lowery (Will Smith) wants to keep fighting crime but reluctant Burnett (Martin Lawrence) contemplates retirement. When an assassin attempt draws the attention of the Miami police, they team up to take on their most dangerous enemy yet – the family of a former cartel crime boss who is hell-bent on revenge.
After two films, the latest Bad Boys instalment sees the characters’ clashing personalities comes to a head with more than death risking their partnership. Between Burnett’s growing priorities to his family and Lowery’s reluctance to settle down, their personal differences cause them to reflect on their future on the force. The introduction of a young task force and their reliance on modern technology also questions their ‘act first, think last’ approach.
It is not until the appearance of assassin Armando (Jacob Scipio) forces them to re-evaluate their loyalties. This narrative not only updates the franchise for the new decade but provides a reality check to the characters’ supposed unbreakable bond, reminding audiences that nothing lasts forever. However, Bad Boys For Life‘s entertainment factor easily overshadow sporadic dramatic moments so its uneven tone confuses audiences.
Their respective personalities also reflect their presence within the story. An energetic Smith drives the film while the somewhat cuddly Lawrence seems content as the comedic sidekick. After more than 20 years, the two continue to share an on-screen chemistry that nicely complements the story. The supporting cast holds their own through dramatic action sequences and light-hearted scenes but Armando is a bit of a letdown. His presence essentially dwindles down to being a hot-headed puppet of an embittered mother with an intriguing yet underdeveloped backstory.
In their biggest project to date, directors El Arbi and Fallah ambitiously step into Michael Bay’s slo-mo shoes to visually create an instalment befitting of the Bad Boys franchise. They effectively combine a mature sense of glamour and excessive violence while the screenplay by Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan poke fun at the brash dialogue that makes the series so entertaining.
Overall, Bad Boys for Life is a surprise. Unlike other long-awaited sequels, it embraces its fun factor that revives the series for old fans and will entertain a new generation.
Bad Boys for Life is out in UK cinemas on 17 January.
Director: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah
Stars: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Paola Núñez, Kate del Castillo, Nicky Jam, Joe Pantoliano
Runtime: 124 minutes