Back in 1995, director Michael Bay’s Bad Boys, set in motion an action franchise that has since been embraced by a generation of action fans. Would you believe it has been a whopping 17 years since Bad Boys II?! In the mean time these “boys” have, like the rest of us, got a little bit older, greyer and maybe even wiser. So, finally, 2020 is the time for them to again ride together, maybe even die together but unquestionably they will still be Bad Boys For Life. And in this Michael Bay-less third entry (though he has a crafty cameo), the guys offer us the most pleasant of surprises, as this series pulls off a Mission: Impossible by showing betterment with age.
Catching up with detectives Marcus (Martin Lawrence) and Mike (Will Smith), this film sees the two contemplating what lies ahead. Marcus has just become a grandad and is circling the idea of retirement, while Mike maintains he’s still as good as ever, but a vengeful figure from Mike’s past is set to cause a division between this brotherhood and rip Mike’s world apart, as they begin a hostile takeover of Miami.
This film gives fans the reunion with that they deserve. Offering a big hearted and nostalgic return to the ‘90s but also re-jigging some of the rulebook, with a bigger story, greater warmth and more refined action, with a number of impressive set pieces. Time plays a huge factor in Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan’s screenplay and for audiences who grew up with these guys, this journey is one that just might touch you and send you spiralling back to those Bad Boys double bills with your pals (Hot Fuzz style) back in the day. However, it is comforting to see that the guys have not lost their touch and fresh directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (credited collectively as ‘Adil & Bilall’), show such affection for this buddy cop tandem, as they do for characters old and new.
Smith and Lawrence return effortlessly to these roles and it is as if the last 17 years has been no time at all. Meanwhile it was great to see the underrated Joe Pantoliano return as Captain Conrad, alongside some other returning cast members. While fresh faces Paola Núñez, Charles Melton, Alexander Ludwig and Vanessa Hudgens make for a great dynamic as AMMO (Advanced Miami Metro Operations), a group Mike and Marcus uneasily join with. And Kate del Castillo creates an imposing villain in the mysterious and revenge-fuelled Isabel, who works alongside her action-ready son Armando (played by Jacob Scipio), to collect an old, personal, debt.
The narrative twist is not earth shattering but adds backstory, opening up new directions for new instalments (which is already now confirmed) to go (hopefully it will be a wise move), and while a lot of the actual content is not highly original, it is confidently delivered and allows the cast and in particular the lead duo to crackle with their trademark wisecracks and banter, while the action scenes race with adrenaline, backed by an effective – if sometimes unmemorable – Lorne Balfe score.
I enjoyed this a heck of a lot and for my money, Bad Boys For Life is the best of the trilogy. Funny and heartfelt, with the series’ trademark ‘Bayhem’ being fine tuned with well-staged and well-timed set pieces. Smith and Lawrence excel (Lawrence is better than he’s been in years especially) in this fun, charismatic ’90s throwback. You’ll be still humming Inner Circle all these years on!