Whatcha gonna do?
Twenty-five years have passed since detectives Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) first suited up for Captain Michael Bay in Bad Boys, and 17 years have passed since they joined him again for Bad Boys II.
Since the first time Bay assaulted our eyes and ears with his patented brand of cinematic garbage, I've grown to almost enjoy said garbage. I hated Bad Boys, but I sort of liked the outrageous Bad Boys II. Bay tends to amuse me now, unless he's doing a Transformers movie, in which case I check out. I attribute my suddenly liking some Bay movies to brain decay due to aging, a lack of iron and a general loss of spirituality over the years.
So, I guess the bad news is that Bay passed on directing Bad Boys for Life, the third installment in the franchise. I would've liked to have seen an attempt by Bay to top the almost self-parodying craziness that was Bad Boys II, but, alas, he was making Netflix movies with Ryan Reynolds.
The good news is that the directing team of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah does a sufficient job of continuing the mayhem, easily topping Bay's lame original and providing a chapter that is as good, and sometimes better, than chapter two.
Burnett is eying retirement, while Lowrey is dealing with the psychological and physical ramifications of aging (he's dyeing his goatee, so it's all good). A crazy witch lady gangster Isabel (Kate del Castillo) has escaped from prison and has put out a hit list for her son Armando (Jacob Scipio) to work his way through. Isabel has some vengeance in mind, the targets are former associates, and they have connections to Lowrey.
Lowrey himself is on that list, and he takes a couple of bullets early in the film. I'm not giving too much away here in telling you that Lowrey doesn't die. There's no movie if Lowrey dies. So, a brief healing time later, Lowrey and a very reluctant Burnett are back in action, wise cracking and shooting people in slow motion.
Some familiar faces return, including Theresa Randle as Burnett's long suffering wife. She's good in a subplot that has Burnett becoming a grandad while getting more house time in attempted retirement. House retirement doesn't go well. Bad things happen with ceiling fan repair. Joe Pantoliano makes a welcomed return as Pepto-Bismol-swigging Captain Howard, a still capable riff on all of those screaming captains from Beverly Hills Cop movies.
All the mayhem comes to an appropriately visceral and bloody conclusion, replete with big plot twists and the Smith-Lawrence duo kicking ass. When the two are just allowed to riff and fly, it's fun. There's a big production going on around them, but it never overwhelms their combined star power. They are bloodier, nastier versions of Abbott and Costello.
As Bay learned with Bad Boys II, Smith and Lawrence are better in this sort of thing when they wink at the camera and everything is ridiculously over-the-top. The new directors know their way around an action scene, and their comic timing is strong, so there are equal levels of laughs and explosions in this installment. The movie isn't the big joke that Bad Boys II was—Burnett's electronics store sex problem confession remains the series highlight—but it's unabashedly nuts. It also qualifies as a competent and promising reboot.
Now, please don't take these words as incredibly high praise. I'm saying that this is relatively tasty cinematic junk food. I'm saying that it's good enough that I'm OK with the idea that the next chapter won't be nearly two decades away. (Bad Boys 4 is already in the works.) I'm saying that there seems to be a few more Bad Boys stories to tell, and the beat goes on without Bay.