Bad Boys for LifeReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 01/15/20 15:57:53
Originally conceived as a vehicle for, of all people, Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey, the 1995 buddy comedy/action thriller hybrid “Bad Boys” was a big hit at the box office and helped to establish both Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as movie stars. That said, other than the fact that Tea Leoni turned up in the cast as well, I must confess that I don’t really recall much about it other than the fact that it was big and loud and made a lot of money. I do have stronger memories of 2003’s “Bad Boys II” but they are all of the kind that one spends years in therapy trying to come to terms with—to this day, that lazy, stupid, super-violent, racist, xenophobic and wildly misogynistic piece of shit remains the second-worst film that I have seen in all my years of moviegoing. Put it this way—if I had to choose between seeing it or a sing-a-long screening of “Cats,” I would go with “Cats” in a heartbeat, if only because its crimes against cinema did not involve leering over naked corpses or third-act invasions of Cuba. Now, for reasons that probably must have seemed like a good idea over at Sony before the dismal returns of their recent attempts to revive the “Men in Black” and “Charlie’s Angels” franchises, “Bad Boys for Life” is upon us and to give it some vague degree of credit, it is at least a little better than its predecessor—admittedly not the most astonishing of accomplishments—and even contains a potentially interesting concept early on in the proceedings. Don’t worry, that idea is quickly abandoned and the film quickly devolves into another smugly self-satisfied mess distinguished by lazy writing, indifferent direction and an orgy of brutality that seems slightly questionable for a film opening on the weekend devoted to celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr, whose non-violent approach actually turns up in one of the many lame punchlines on display here.Seeing as how the original film came out a quarter-century ago, central characters Mike Lowery (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) can hardly be described as “boys” any more and right at the top, the film shows the wildly different ways the two approach the aging process. Now a grandfather, Marcus wants to retire and settle down while eternal lone wolf Mike insists that he is still at the top of his game, even while contending with a new unit in the Miami police force, AMMO, comprised of young officers (including Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig and Charles Melton) who dare to use modern technology to solve cases instead of simply shooting people in the face old-school style. (Mike compares them at one point to “High School Musical” and sadly, that is only the third-most-annoying and overly self-conscious in-joke on display.) What they don’t realize is that while their little crises are going on, Isabel Aretas (Kate de Castillo), the wife of a legendary Mexican drug dealer that Mike killed when he was just starting out, has just busted out of a Mexican prison and reunited with her son, Armando (Jacob Scipio), in order to begin an elaborate revenge plot. And yes, that is the same Kate de Castillo who became internationally famous for her connection with real life drug lord El Chapo, which is the most annoying and overly self-conscious in-joke on display. (As for the second-most annoying and overly self-conscious in-joke, there is a cameo appearance that practically redefines the word “smug,” though one could argue that practically the entire film could qualify to be named #2.)
Things are thrown into upheaval when the seemingly impervious Mike is gunned down in the street by Armando and nearly dies. When he eventually recovers, he wants to track down the assailant but Marcus, who has made a vow to God to no longer put violence into the world, refuses to go along and the partnership is seemingly shattered. They go their separate ways with Mike working with AMMO, which just happens to be led by ex-girlfriend Rita (Paola Nunez), and ensuring that their policies of observing and using non-lethal force are thrown out the window (along with certain suspects) and Marcus sitting at home watching telenovelas while not getting laid. Obviously, this cannot stand and before too long, Mike and Marcus, with the aid of AMMO, are once again shooting up the streets of Miami before making a sojourn to Mexico City for a final confrontation that seems to once again find them violating international law but hey, it is all good because they are—all together now—bad boys for life.
The first two “Bad Boys” films were directed by Michael Bay with the second one being perhaps the ultimate distillation of his admittedly distinct ideas about cinema, in which no camera shot can last more than eight seconds, no line of dialogue can go more than eight words without some variation of “motherfucker” turning up and no costume for any of the female extras that exceeds more than eight inches of material in total. This time around, the film was directed by the Belgian duo of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (billed as Adil and Bilal) and their efforts go to show that the one thing almost as annoying as observing Bay’s particular aesthetic straight from the source is to observe someone trying to replicate it without his particular flair, for lack of a more fitting word. Everything one associates with Bay—guns, gore and scantily-clad girls—is there in abundance but it is done in such a forgettable, going-through-the-motions style that it starts evaporating from the mind while it is all still unfolding on the screen. Zillions of dollars were clearly spent on this film but absolutely none of it sticks in the mind afterwards—even “Bad Boys 2” managed to linger, if only because of its sheer ugliness. Watching it is like watching someone at Kinkos try to photocopy clear plastic wrap for two solid hours—it can be done, of course, of course, but one ends up spending a lot of money with very little in the way of tangible results.
I do not know how long that this film has been in the planning stages but based on the available evidence, the screenplay appears rot have been hashed together by Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan over the course of a weekend (presumably one where they got a late start) and never improved because no one felt like making the effort. There is an interesting idea early on involving Marcus’s decision to reject violence and his revulsion towards his partner’s bloodlust but before too long, the two are once again racking up enormous levels of carnage that the camera observes with an almost pornographic leer. The idea of bringing in the younger squad of cops doesn’t pay off either, leading only to the kind of “Get off my lawn”-style nonsense that will find favor only with those few who adored last year’s similarly themed attempt to revive the “Shaft” franchise. The only memorable aspect of the screenplay comes with its big third-act twist and that is only because of the combination of its basic idiocy and the unfortunate and awkward manner it will remind some viewers of another Will Smith dud of recent vintage.“Bad Boys for Life” exists for only two reasons—to earn Smith and Lawrence lots of money for coasting through their paces with the minimum expenditure of energy and interest and to make a lot of money for Sony during the traditionally slow month of January (and, if the post-credit cookie is to be believed, set up a fourth film that, now that I think of it, probably should have had this one’s title). It may very well accomplish that goal—thought the widespread commercial rejection of recent attempts to reboot dormant franchises makes it less of a sure thing than it might have been at one time—but it is unlikely that anyone other than the accountants involved will be thrilled with any aspect of it.
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