"Bad Boys for Life" Review

I decided to watch the first two Bad Boy films before seeing "Bad Boys for Life" and I won't mince words. The first two Bad Boys films have not aged well. The score in the first one is particularly unbearable (there's a dated, porno-saxophone playing very loudly when a sex worker is shot by the bad guy), and the second one had Will Smith making a threatening joke to an underage boy about him  getting sexually assaulted. The reason why those films have endured enough for a third one to be created is the charisma and chemistry between the two leads, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Thankfully, Bad Boys for Life breathes new life and completely rejuvenates the franchise.

Bad Boys for Life has a respectable budget for a big-name blockbuster. However, with seventeen years having passed since the last one, 90 million dollars goes much farther because of how much technology has advanced to enhance the overall look of the film. This is the most stylish film of the three, and the way that the camera moves through shots whether covering the heroes doing action or even the more simple shots looking down on Miami, it's very enjoyable to watch on an aesthetic level. The scoring has significantly improved since the series began, as this time they've stuck to classic orchestral instrumentation which is a great way to class things up from the humble beginnings twenty-five years ago.

Though I've not been generous in my feedback of the first two Bad Boys films, I still recommend doing a rewatch (or first watch) leading into seeing Bad Boys for Life so you can appreciate how well they've developed the characters and even managed to reference past plot points. Mike is the ladies man who has a new love interest with every film. In the second, it was Marcus' sister (played by Gabrielle Union) and they mention in passing how Mike had broken up with her some time since the second film ended. We also see Marcus' daughter get married to Reggie, the same boy she went on her first date with back in Bad Boys II. Reggie is also the same boy who Mike threatened with sexual assault, but let's just hope that the characters have become more socially conscious since then.

The only noteworthy critique I have is towards the treatment of Alexander Ludwig's character Dorn. He's introduced with a back story involving trauma, and at the end of the film he mentions having started going to therapy. When he asks the other members of the team to come to group therapy of him, they mock his request and the interaction is played off like he is the butt of the joke for having the maturity to care about his mental health. It's by no means out of character for the others to be resistant towards therapy but there were still far better ways to handle the already stigmatised subject matter of mental health.

Putting aside the stylistic improvements of Bad Boys for Life compared to its predecessors, the film's greatest strength is that it has given more dimension to the lead characters and the story. In the past it was just about two police officers having a case to solve with some funny banter along the way. This time around, the very fact that this is the third film of a series is treated as a strength. There is a long history to these characters in their careers and their relationship with one another, which is leaned into for dramatic weight.

Bad Boys for Life is refreshing in how it gives the characters and the audience room to breathe and take in what Mike and Martin have experienced psychologically and emotionally during this case and how it builds on all the turmoil they have experienced in the very dangerous job they have been working for decades.

Many people complain nowadays about how frequently sequels and reboots are being commissioned but considering how much time has gone by between each film, this sequel doesn't feel rushed at all. The first and second Bad Boys films were released eight years apart and Bad Boys for Life has been released seventeen years after Bad Boys II. The growth and evolution of Mike and Marcus is on display. Their friendship is the same, in the sense that fans are treated to their usual comedic banter, but this time there is far more depth to their relationship as well as them as individuals.

Will Smith's character arc is spectacular. Mike has been a pretty vapid character in this franchise but this time around there is true growth and evolution. Some people seem to forget how skilled of a dramatic actor Will Smith is, since his biggest blockbusters are often focused on comedy, action, or both. The people in charge of Bad Boys for Life made the wise choice to capitalise on Will's multi-faceted skills and give him more serious dramatic material to play in between gun fights and wise-cracking.

This is a sequel done right. It's entertaining, feels fresh, and effectively justifies why it exists in the first place. It doesn't feel like milking an already established property, it feels like a natural progression of the story and characters introduced in the first two film. Three films in a series being released over the course of twenty-five years works far better than twenty-five films being released over ten years. Just some food for thought.

One final note I'll leave you with is to be aware that there are some scenes in the credits, one of which is a vague, open-ended set-up for a potential fourth film (which Sony has officially announced after the opening weekend exceeded initial expectations). Check out Bad Boys for Life for fun, action, and heart!

Watch the video review of Bad Boys for Life here:


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