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The Screen Scene: Bad Boys for Life

The Screen Scene with Scott Phillips

Bad Boys for Life is the third action-comedy that pairs Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as cops who will do literally everything in their power to take down the bad guys. Even if it involves killing dozens of civilians who get caught in the cross-fire.

It’s been nearly 17 years since Bad Boys II, and the world of action films has evolved considerably since then. Namely the rise of the Fast and Furious franchise which Bad Boys for Life steals from at every turn.

Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett are entering middle age. Lowrey is still the same fearless daredevil risking life and limb to bring in a perp. But, Marcus is about to be a grandfather and has a healthy fear of getting killed in the line of duty. When an enemy from the past puts out a hit on Lowrey, the level of danger that follows threatens to break up their long-standing partnership.

The division of labor in the Bad Boys films has Will Smith playing the action hero and Martin Lawrence providing the comedic relief. Lawrence can still make audiences laugh especially when he pokes fun at the aches and pains of middle age. But, the rest of the film is a tedious retread of action movies from the past 20 years. We’ve seen these car chases and explosions so many times that they barely register in our brains at this point.

Bad Boys for Life also tries to tug at our heartstrings with scenes of Marcus’ daughter getting married or having a baby. But, every time the film mentions “family” with such sentimentality, I expected to see Vin Diesel walking into the frame. Not only have we seen all of these plot beats dozens of times over the past 15 years, we’ve also seen them executed with more style and sincerity.

My biggest problem with Bad Boys for Life is that it’s just so … stupid. I hate that word. It’s not very imaginative. If I were teaching a class in film criticism, I’d deduct points from my own paper for reducing this review to something so basic.

But, it’s really the best way to describe this film. Characters are allies and then they’re enemies and then they’re allies again. One character who shall remain nameless for spoiler purposes is a cold-blooded murderer who assassinates countless people in the film, but by the end of the film we’re supposed to forgive him because he’s turning over a new leaf?

The entire film is based on the idea that Lowrey and Burnett are going out in one final blaze of glory, and then the end credits scene sets up the possibility of an endless series of sequels. I think Lowrey and Burnett can go on those adventures without me. I give Bad Boys for Life 2 out of 5 popcorn buckets because Martin Lawrence still makes me laugh.

The film is currently in theaters everywhere.

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