You may understand why going into “Bad Boys for Life,” I wanted to give it a fair chance. After all, Will Smith is a talented actor who deserves to be in good movies again. Considering that this film is the first movie starring Will Smith to be certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes in over ten years, I was optimistic that “Bad Boys for Life” would be Smith’s comeback. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as this film is aggressively bad.
From directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah comes another sequel that nobody was really asking for to the original “Bad Boys” from 1995. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence return as Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnet respectively, with the two characters struggling to retire as they are roped into a new mission. The inciting incident occurs when Mike is nearly shot to death by the film’s mysterious new antagonist. This forces the characters to realize they’re not invincible and ponder what they want from the rest of their lives. Marcus is more than happy to give up the “Bad Boys” lifestyle to be a nurturing grandfather, while Mike is determined to get revenge.
While on the surface the plot and premise sound fine, albeit cliché, the execution leaves much to be desired. Every character and story beat feels so predictable and formulaic. The plot becomes more and more nonsensical as the film progresses.
“Bad Boys for Life” is very different in its style compared to the first two “Bad Boys” films, as they were directed by Micheal Bay. Arbi and Fallah attempted to make their film more fun and comedic than Bay’s. The directors used rather obnoxious editing, where many scene transitions are overly edited, to make it seem cool. Oftentimes the camera zooms in on a fist bump in slow motion or the footage is sped up as the camera spins around the set. It doesn’t offer any purpose to the narrative, being a dated style of filmmaking that belongs in the 90s.
The characters are constantly making comedic quips during the action, which was still present in the first two, but not to this extent. During every single action scene Mike and Marcus engage in comedic banter, which completely ruins the tension of the sequence. The characters are still cracking jokes even during the dramatic climax. How can you expect the audience to feel a sense of danger for the characters, if the characters themselves don’t?
The one saving grace of the film is the action itself, as the gore is pretty intense. You can really feel the impact of bullets when they hit the characters, since they show a fair amount of blood. It’s simply not something you would expect from a Will Smith movie made in 2020. Considering the first two “Bad Boys” were also rated R, it was a smart move by the filmmakers to try to keep it in line with what came before.
The acting ranges from serviceable to bad. Will Smith’s acting was fine, as he’s just more or less playing himself as usually does. However, Martin Lawrence’s performance was really weak. His delivery of his lines was off, with the cadence and rhythm of speech of his dramatic monologue matching more with comedic timing. There’s a scene early on in the film where Marcus is pouring his heart out to Mike to beg him to retire, yet Lawrence comes off as indifferent because his timing doesn’t match the scene. Joe Pantoliano returns as Captain Howard, and he’s always fun in everything he’s in. Jacob Scipio is rather forgettable as the antagonist Armando, since his character seemingly never changes his facial expressions.
Will Smith almost seems cursed to be in mediocre movies from now on. Part of that is by his own fault as he doesn’t really take risks as an actor and try different types of roles. He seems to be most concerned with the image of Will Smith, someone whom everyone likes and admires, and not so much with being a dynamic actor. “Bad Boys for Life” is no different, simply a bad cliché movie that seems like it was plucked right from the early 2000s.
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