Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna doooo…?
Roll your eyes, is whatcha should do. Because even if Bad Boys For Life isn’t the utter trainwreck that many could have predicted, it’s still not worth your pennies.
Indeed, this delayed threequel to the Bad Boys series comes out 17 years since Bad Boys II, and finds Will Smith and Martin Lawrence reprising their roles as Mike Lowrey and Marcus Bennett. One is still in the force and going strong, while the other is seriously considering retirement. And all it’ll take is a pesky Mexican crime family hellbent on revenge to unite them once more…
This third film has pilfered a whole lot of pages out of Lethal Weapon’s playbook, and as big as it is on explosions and nostalgic references, it’s short on excitement. Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah have taken over from original director Michael Bay but have kept his signature camera moves. At first, it seems like a knowing wink to the audience; but when Michael Bay shows up for a speaking cameo, you know that things have gone terribly wrong somewhere. And for those of you wondering: yes, Michael Bay has the onscreen presence and charisma of a plimsoll.
For all critics like myself will take great pleasure in slamming this film, it has to be said that Bad Boys For Life isn’t as bad as it could have been. The action is shamefully entertaining, some of the violence is appropriately bloody, Joe Pantoliano reprises his role as Captain Conrad Howard and steals a fair few scenes, and some of the humour lands, chiefly due to the solid bromantic interplay between the two leads. The main snag is that for all it does right, there’s so much the film throws your way that makes you hate it just that extra bit more. The smugness – for a start – as there are more self-referential beats than you can shake a Glock at; the ridiculous third act which crowbars in an unearned sentimental twist (which might unwittingly remind some viewers of the piss-poor Gemini Man, also starring Smith); the annoying cameos, from Bay to soundtrack exec-producer DJ Khaled; and speaking of which, the ear-bleeding, aggressively annoying soundtrack which draws attention to itself throughout the overlong runtime. It’s these sizeable bum notes that knock it down from a solidly entertaining three-star action flick to a serviceable-but-quite-irritating two-star trilogy closer.
“We’re going to ride this thing till the wheels fall off,” declares Lowry at one point. The wheels are off, Detective. And please, for all our sakes, stay away from the teased fourth instalment. There’s a good boy.
Bad Boys For Life | Directed by Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah (US, 2020), with Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Joe Pantoliano. Starts Jan 16.
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