Bad Boys wasn’t so long ago to be forgotten entirely, certainly not with that song, but a chorus of guns and explosions does have a habit of ironing out the nuance of memory. So some research perhaps is in order to see if any background information might be valuable. Key points tend to flood back with a quick Google search, and for Bad Boys the first fan review to appear is by a man called Jaden and it starts simply: ‘My favorite moment in the movie is when Martin Lawrence gets shot in the rectum and his wife makes fun of him’. It about sums up the level of back-and-forth humour between the smooth Mike Lowery (Will Smith) and his bumbling sidekick Marcus Bennett (Lawrence) that made Bad Boys such a success, much to the confusion of critics. It’s a chemistry that perhaps makes you wonder why a 25-year reunion is called for, but for Smith and Lawrence it works.
Sure enough the butt jokes are back to provide that important nostalgic link. Because what is Bad Boys for Life if not a tale of overgrown children tackling a new world with old habits and discovering things don’t quite work they way they used to. Because things have changed. Their trigger-happy mentality has been superseded by the AMMO squad, employing state-of-the-art tech and a crack team headed by a flame of Mike’s called Rita (Paola Núñez). Family looms large for Marcus, who is still an idiot but more circumspect in his life as a grandpa. Mike, however, has never settled down, and his recklessness is coming back to bite. Twenty-five years ago Michael Bay equipped him with a gun, a need for speed and an uncanny ability to look cool in that radioactive Miami sunset saying stuff like, ‘This shit just got real’ and ‘Hell no’. Now he’s having to dye his goatee and after years of sending drug cartels to the clink, someone wants his head for payback.
It’s perhaps a sign of the times that Bad Boys for Life puts the brakes on its traditional ‘ride together, die together’ mantra by exploring the possibility that Mike, far from being cool, is just a perpetual child. Karma has arrived and it’s personal. ‘All our lives we’ve been bad boys,’ Marcus says at one point, ‘now it’s time to be good men’. It’s a touching if long overdue sentiment to recognise that they might have gone a bit overboard in times gone by, and pays lip service to the different era that Bad Boys has been revived for. ‘Boys will be boys’ doesn’t quite cut it anymore. But of course it’s a ruse. Fans of the originals will probably be pleased to learn that this is merely the set-up for a joke. Be prepared to see Smith and Lawrence deploying grenades and machine guns and being fired upon by rocket launchers from choppers in the busy streets of Miami. All for a worthy cause.
It’s dumb, certainly, but it’s also tongue in cheek. The carnage, the incompetence, has always been the joke – the knowledge that their successes invariably leave a trail of destruction that in any real universe would have seen these two in jail 25 years ago. Perhaps it’s not too much of a stretch to call them the distinctly Miami versions of Inspector Clouseau … no, that is too much of a stretch. But at least under the direction of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, this is an enjoyable return to 90s blockbuster action, complete with a metallic Impact font titles sequence. The action is choppy but filmed with deafening verve. Through the screenplay by Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan, banter, brutality and bromancing move Bad Boys for Life along at a cracking pace, with some nice comedic set pieces slotted here and there. The supporting cast also add their own energy and variety. All in all, Michael Bay would be proud, though a more agile touch than Bay’s sledgehammer subtlety is appreciated.
Bad Boys for Life is in cinemas from 16th January through Sony Pictures.