'Bad Boys For Life' (2020) Review: Ride Till I Can't No More
In the 25 years it’s existed, I’ve never seen a film from the ‘Bad Boys’ series. If you asked me the names of the characters, I would have said “Fresh Prince & Martin”. Still, even with my limited knowledge, I could tell you of a few iconic moments. The time Mike & Marcus intimidated Marcus’ daughter’s boyfriend, the time they burst into a KKK rally guns blazing, or even the iconic shot of the duo with Martin Lawrence exclaiming the exact moment when things got real.
All of these moments I know from ‘Bad Boys’ because whatever you may say about the series, it’s without a doubt iconic, with moments that transcended the cinematic experience and became part of a culture. Like Luke denying Darth Vader’s fatherhood, or Don Corleone making an unrefusable offer. ‘Bad Boys For Life’ knows this, and manages to reference its iconic moments far better than most long awaited sequels.
Sequels like this tend to operate under a considerable amount of pressure. Coming back to the franchise the movie has to not only be a loving homage to what came before, but also innovate with new ideas so it doesn’t feel like a rehash. To that end ‘Bad Boys For Life’ is successful. Giving you more than enough that’s new, and organically weaving in the old.
Old is the name of the game in this film. Smith & Lawrence aren’t in their 20s anymore. If this had been another film of the pair running and gunning with reckless abandon, it would’ve been ridiculous. Well, ridiculous in a different sense than it already is. The movie still manages to have unbelievable stunts, but it also finds time to treat its characters with consciousness.
The script has several moments of downtime with little to no action. In these moments, you get a sense of depth to both Mike and Marcus. Marcus is initially thought of as pathetic, washed up, and too old to be the star he once was. Then, the film flips the concept onto Mike, who can still hold his own in a fist fight, but goes home to an empty house and no sense of direction. It’s a portrait of two action stars coming to terms with their place in the world. It’s interesting, intriguing and…a little boring.
The film has to have the fun sense of adventure that it’s known for, so the kind of lofty contemplative ideas that are dispersed throughout the script are under done. Nor is it what you came for. It’s like walking into Burger King with a craving for a whopper, but they tell you they only have steak tartare. A meal of that calibre is always welcome, but right now, you want a greasy, fatty whopper. And even if you did want steak tartare, you don’t want it made by Burger King.
When things do pop off, ‘Bad Boys For Life’ has some genuinely incredible action. Several moments I was involuntarily jumping out of my seat. It has a great sense of cohesion, progression, and manages to stay focused despite the chaos. It’s also incredibly cliche, but in the best way possible. Embracing all the things that make it fun.
The story is no different, and in fact gets treated like the action. This may not be directed by Michael Bay, but it has all of his sensibilities. Directors Bilall Fallah, and Adil El Arbi, manage to serve the rule of thumb that scale is everything. The plot is middling with big explosive reveals like a telenovela (An observation that’s espoused by one of the characters no less). At the very least the story serves the characters.
‘Bad Boys For Life’ is rife with humour that didn’t always have me laughing, but never made me irritated, and was always consistent with the characters. I commend the movie on being an action movie with a brain, that actually cared about its heroes. It unfortunately doesn’t always serve that characterization well, since at a certain point, things have to get real.
Rating: Half Price