Movie review: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence still have that winning chemistry in 'Bad Boys for Life'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jan 28 2020 12:41 PM

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are back for one last ride in 'Bad Boys for Life.' Handout

The original "Bad Boys" was shown way back in 1995, an explosive buddy-cop comedy action film starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence directed by Michael Bay. The trio reunited to make "Bad Boys II" eight years after the first in 2003. Both met disapproval from the critics, but were hits at the box office. 

It would take another 17 years before the third episode of the franchise came along this year, but with Belgian directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah taking over from Bay.

In "Bad Boys for Life," detectives Michael Eugene "Mike" Lowrey and Marcus Miles Burnett are now very much middle-aged men. Marcus had just become a grandfather when his daughter gave birth to a baby boy, and was seriously thinking of retiring. However, someone with a big grudge on Mike ordered a hit on him. He nearly died from injuries sustained when a lone gunman on a motorcycle shot him in full public view. When he recovered months later, Mike convinced Marc to help him find his assassin, and be "Bad Boys" one last time. 

Will Smith was just being his typical wise-cracking uber-confident Will Smith here. This is Will Smith's third film in a row that I had seen in the past few months, after "Gemini Man" and "Spies in Disguise." His Mike Lowrey here in "Bad Boys for Life" was practically a composite of his characters from these two other films. In fact, there were elements of both films which were also in this new film, like being the subject of a hit, the killer's secret origin, going rogue outside the system, drones with massive firepower, etc. 

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Martin Lawrence had not been seen in any major film since his last (and much-panned) "Big Momma" movie in 2011. Since Lawrence's type of self-deprecating comedy had not been seen for some time, his funny bumbling scenes (about domesticated after retirement) were actually a welcome break from the intense action and violence of this film. Despite being more out of shape since the last "Bad Boys," he was still able to keep up (somewhat) with the action sequences (which were clearly more of Will Smith's forte). 

This "Bad Boys" had several scenes of bloody deaths courtesy of ruthless Mexican villains Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo) and her son Armando (Jacob Scipio). These may be a bit too much for those who came expecting a light-hearted comedy. 

To amp up the youth factor, a big part of the action now involved an allied group called AMMO (short for Advanced Miami Metro Operations) led by Lowrey's ex Rita (Paola Nunez) and her attractive staff: the computer techie Dorn (Alexander Ludwig), the drone guy Rafe (Charles Melton) and the weapons pro Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens). Veteran character actor Joe Pantoliano was back as Capt. Conrad Howard, his role since the first film.

The main fulcrum of this franchise is the chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, and this was still fully intact despite the 17-year gap between sequels. The sincerity these two actors projected sincerity on screen made convinced us of their dedication to duty and deep friendship. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."