Bad Boys for Life review: boys fail to grow up

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.

HOLLYWOOD is no stranger to milking nostalgia.

Success often depends on audience demand to see the characters on screen again (think Star Wars) or a fresh new approach (Mad Max: Fury Road).

Get it wrong and the results are more like Terminator: Dark Fate or Men in Black: International; which brings us to Bad Boys for Life, the sequel 17 years in the making.

Bad Boys was a big hit in 1995, helping to launch the A-list movie career of Will Smith.

The action/comedy film had a solid hook, with playboy cop Mike Lowrey (Smith) forced to swap lives with family man Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) to protect a witness to a $100 million drugs theft.

The need for a long-gestating sequel was already being questioned when Bad Boys II was released eight years later, which was savaged by critics, performed moderately at the box office and failed to offer anything new.

Will Smith.

Bad Boys for Life makes the same mistakes; it’s a competent action film that mimics the action and car chases of its predecessors, captures some of the dynamic between Smith and Lawrence, but offers little else.

It makes a small effort to acknowledge the passing of time, with Lowrey and Burnett ruminating on retirement and mortality. The story is even anchored on a case from Lowrey’s past and resulting regrets.

But it never sees the plot points through, preferring to fall back on nostalgia and failing to develop the characters.

Smith is as likeable as ever, doing the heavy lifting as Lawrence (looking noticeably older) is sidelined for parts of the movie.

There’s a group of new, young sidekicks that sets up a brief clash of generations and policing styles, as well as carrying some of the action.

Bad Boys for Life will please fans of the earlier films but it fails to grow or offer anything new, with the only impression being a question of why Hollywood thought Bad Boys constituted a franchise rather than a one-and-done action film.

 

THE ESSENTIALS

Bad Boys for Life

Two-and-a-half stars

Directed by: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah

Staring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence

Review by: Dave Friedlos

In cinemas: Now

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