What Bad Boys for Life achieves is seemingly small; simply, it’s a solidly made sequel within the remake and reboot landscape, this is actually quite a significant achievement. In this follow-up film directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah we continue the story of Mike (Will Smith) and Marcus (Martin Lawrence) as the classic “bad cop, bad cop” duo, as they both attempt to uncover a shadow assassin – in one last outing.
Bad Boys for Life simply focuses on making its action engaging, its plot interesting, and its characters relatively bodied. It seems simple in retrospect, but the reality is that achieving all of this requires intense logistical work between the writers, producers, director, and actors – especially when well choreographed action is involved and especially if the film is the third in a franchise 17 years after the previous installment. Despite its lengthy runtime, the plot is nicely paced and keeps your eyebrows raised with some genuinely intriguing twists throughout.
These loud and boisterous buddy-cops work just as chaotically as they did in the originals – though with a touch less glamour due to their aged and slowing energy. Will Smith retains nearly the same level of charismatic potency as he once did, though remaining as the more reserved of the two despite his characters cocky attitude. Martin Lawrence has his silencer off, verging on Kevin-Hart-levels of bombastic ear-blasting comedic relief. What came as a surprise was its minor supporting characters – with Paola Nuñez as the charismatic leader, Vanessa Hudgens as a “no shits given” soldier, Alexander Ludwig as a muscled goliath tech nerd, and Charles Melton as a hot-headed instragram addicted party boy – all within a SWAT unit. The mixture of all these eclectic personalities meld together in just the right way so that you’re itching to see more of them in future installments. On top of the great group dynamic we receive quite an admirable villain by the way of Jacob Scipio – his choreographed fight sequences and emotionality make his character feel threatening and convincing.
Visually we get many of the same low angle closeup shots of Will and Martin taking off their shades in their freshly waxed sports cars, all with strong precision. The marriage between camerawork and lighting makes for a vibrant and shockingly skillful look, almost reminding one of the technical prowess seen within the John Wick films. It wasn’t until I saw it was photographed by Robrecht Heyvaert that I can see the resemblance – a cinematographer that shot the 2017 thriller Revenge – a stylistic film with a similar lighting style. As for its soundtrack, I found it sounded oddly familiar, that hunch was rewarded when I found it was composed by the student of Hans Zimmer himself, composer Robrecht Heyvaert. He brings a Hans Zimmer inspired score which elevates the scenes in which they are played in and ramps up the tension for most of the action sequences.
Bad Boys for Life closes the door on the original characters stories and leaves a door open for a new partnership and fourth film. It isn’t redefining genre rules – but it protects its legacy by serving up a fully-loaded round of comedy and well directed action.