‘Bad Boys for Life’ a good ride for Smith and Lawrence

Okay. Here is a more movie-watching analyst from the couch in my living room. Bad Boys for Life, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, hit movie theaters back in January. Of course, with Smith’s big-action persona as Det. Mike Lowrey and Lawrence being the equal but more jokey sidekick as Det. Marcus Burnett, you kind of knew this film would play well to audiences. 

According to Box Office Mojo, Bad Boys for Life raked in over $419 million worldwide from its $90 million budget. That’s more than pretty good. That kind of dough made Bad Boys for Life a certifiable hit. 

However, for folks like me who did not get the opportunity to see the film when it was making its theatrical run, playing catch up on our movies watch list due to stay-at-home mandates, has been our chance to see Smith and Lawrence do their thing once again. If nothing else, Bad Boys for Life is a fun ride.  

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys for Life (2020). © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved. SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC.

Smith ups his Mike Lowrey character from the previous films to another badass level. Lawrence’s Burnett role kind of takes a backseat to his partner with his not-so-serious and sometimes humorous demeanor. Don’t get me wrong, it takes a while, but Lawrence as Det. Burnett eventually comes around to Lowrey’s solid partner as the duo looks for ways to take down some real rough riders.

The premise for Bad Boys for Life has Lowrey and Burnett in search to rid the streets of South Florida of drug lords. Unbeknownst to both Lowrey and Burnett, the chief crime perpetrator is trying to take over the local drug scene while bent on revenge. This individual, a ghost of Lowrey’s past, will do nothing short of marking the box on that checklist. 

In the meantime, Burnett develops a conscious and seriously contemplates riding off into the sunset to become a more family man. Lowrey, on the hand, is too driven to keep up his reputation as THAT GUY with a badge, to even take Burnett’s tussle to end his law enforcement run, seriously.    

Will Smith in Bad Boys for Life (2020). © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved. SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC.

That is until a string of unfortunate events takes place that alters the professional and personal swag of Lowrey and Burnett. This is when Bad Boys for Life actually kicks into the best of the three installments that Smith and Lawrence have made together. The first Bad Boys, which made its theater rounds back in 1995, was like a good shock to the system as it displayed both Smith and Lawrence at the height of their popularity. 

The physical rawness of Bad Boys made it a hit with two African American men-in their prime-taking the lead. What I didn’t really like about that film was that as a moviegoer, you really didn’t get to know the characters or the people around them except a loud-mouth, screaming boss they took orders from. 

That first film put too much emphasis on the villains and other people than really on Lowrey or Burnett. With the sequel, Bad Boys II, those in charge of the film, didn’t really know what they wanted to do with the project. They didn’t know if they wanted it to be a comedy or just a plain action movie. 

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys for Life (2020). © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved. SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC.

As a result, Bad Boys II (2003), while a moderate commercial success (over $273 million), bombed critically (Rotten Tomatoes gave Bad Boys II a 23 rating). That is not the case with Bad Boys for Life. Running on a budget that was a lot less ($90 million) than Bad Boys II ($130 million), Bad Boys for Life warmed over the critics (Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer 77 percent score; Audience Score 96 percent) while operating in the black (over $204 million domestically).

That’s probably because Smith and Lawrence, older and wiser, actually had the opportunity to have their bond as partners and friends developed a lot more on the screen thanks to a better and more believable storyline. This is what is missing from the first two films. 

In Bad Boys for Life, while a buffed up Lowrey (Smith) is somewhat inundated with his latest body count, he and Burnett (Lawrence), deadpan humor and all, makes you want to cheer for them on their last ride as partners.            

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