Saturday 12 March 2022

Movie Review: Bad Boys For Life (2020)

An action comedy buddy movie, Bad Boys For Life evolves the series towards middle age realities but still offers a rollicking ride.

In Mexico, dangerous criminal Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo) breaks out of prison with the help of her son Armando (Jacob Scipio). They set out to seek revenge on all those who killed Isabel's drug lord husband many years prior, with Miami Detective Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) on the hit list. Meanwhile, Mike's partner Detective Miles Burnett (Martin Lawrence) becomes a grandfather and seeks to retire from policing.

Armando shoots and seriously hurts Mike, and proceeds to assassinate others in his revenge quest. Mike recovers and is eager to investigate, but finds Miles fully retired and rejecting violence. Police captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) teams Mike with an elite investigative team headed by his ex-girlfriend Lieutenant Rita Secada (Paola Núñez), but they clash over his direct old-school methods. With Armando's killing spree not abating, Mike's anger increases, as does his determination to convince Miles to return to service.

Seventeen years after the first sequel, officers Lowrey and Burnett are back, a bit wiser and heavier, for another round of banter-laced mayhem. With their partnership now closing in on 25 years, they are men on the downside of their career, but only one of them knows it. Belgian-Moroccan co-directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (billed as simply Adil and Bilall) exploit creeping age and diverging levels of enthusiasm to maximum effect, the script (by Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan) comfortably leveraging the available star power.

Bad Boys For Life is often funny, and sometimes hilarious. Martin Lawrence embraces Burnett's non-violent domesticity, leading to some of the best comic moments. The encounter with an accountant zonked-out on drugs is a classic, Burnett attempting to penetrate his soul with heart. A dead body falling from a great height onto a Nissan Quest and a criminal with an icky growth on his forehead are also excellent.

The action scenes arrive with the required regularity, and combine quality execution with laughs. The usual car and motorcycle chases culminate with the usual stunts, and plenty of helicopters enter the fray. The final climax is excellent, Lowrey and Burnett joining forces with Rita and her eclectic crew to turn an abandoned Mexican estate into a war zone. Poignant moments punctuate the action, and while welcome, the juxtaposition of jocular action with genuine loss and soulful revelations often results in jarring tonal dissonance.

The visual style is glitzy, vivid, and deeply infused with the vibrancy of Miami and Mexico. The supporting cast is crowded with characters but surprisingly effective. In short and sharp strokes Adil and Bilall create a potent mother-son antagonist duo in Isabel and Armando, while the agents working for Rita are efficiently brought to life by Vanessa Hudgens (kick-ass), Charles Melton (wise-ass) and Alexander Ludwig (on a psychoanalytical journey to discover his true identity).

Bad Boys For Life displays courage in introducing a late but still sharp narrative twist, consistent with the plot and characters but still quite spicy. The bad boys may be grappling with the passing years, but they still pack plenty of verve.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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