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Film Review: “Bad Boys for Life” – When Michael Bay is Away, the Bad Boys Will Play

Written by: Patrick Howard

Film poster: “Bad Boys for Life”

Bad Boys for Life (Adil El Arbi/Bilall Fallah, 2020) 2½ out of 4 stars.

17 years have passed since the last installment of the Bad Boys franchise assaulted audiences’ eyes with unrelenting machismo and other problematic content. In hindsight, Bad Boys and Bad Boys 2 serve as a fascinating stylistic transition for auteur Michael Bay (yes, he fits the qualifications of an auteur—don’t deny it!) However, it seems Mr. Bay has little to no involvement in Bad Boys for Life, the long-awaited third chapter in the saga of Detectives Mike Lowry and Marcus Burnett.

Miami detectives Lowry and Burnett, played again by Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, find themselves at a crossroads in each of their lives. Burnett (Lawrence) is ready to hang up his gun and badge for good and enjoy the simple life. Lowry (Smith), on the other hand, is prepared to live the life of a 20-year-old until he’s dead and buried. Before these men can come to an understanding with one another’s future, a once-imprisoned drug cartel queen and her son land in Miami to exact revenge on Mike Lowry, the man who put her away.

Bad Boys for Life never matches the fever dream level of insanity of Michael Bay’s Bad Boys films, but it is a suitable sendup to 1990s action films and the excessively stylized nature of the Bad Boys franchise. Normally, long-awaited sequels never bring anything new to the table to warrant their existence; they play out more like greatest hits albums, a nice reminder as to why you fell in love with the original film in the first place. 

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in BAD BOYS FOR LIFE ©Columbia Pictures

Adil and Bilall touch on the staples of the Bad Boys films: gratuitous shots of women, bloody violence, and the grade school humor. The story element of Bad Boys 3 that is most unexpected is the plot line regarding Mike Lowry desperately trying to keep the glory days alive. Intentional or not, this arc comes across as a response to the excessive behavior of his character in the previous films. Granted, this is no character study, but it is the one thing that keeps this action flick above water.

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Patrick Howard has been a cinephile since age seven. Alongside 10 years of experience in film analysis and criticism, he is a staunch supporter of all art forms and believes their influence and legacy over human culture is vital. Mr. Howard takes the time to write his own narrative stories when he can.

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