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Bad Boys for Life (Digital HD)
My memories of seeing Bad Boys II in theaters back in 2003 are kind of poignant considering all that is going on in the world. I was a sophomore in high school and on vacation in New York City with my family. That is back when I barely missed a movie in theaters, especially action films, so I bought a ticket at a huge Times Square theater and watched the Bayhem explode alongside the handful of other weekday patrons. To say I loved it would be an understatement. This long-in-development follow-up, Bad Boys for Life, is the last movie I saw in theaters before their temporary shutdown, and I had a hell of a time at the packed IMAX showing back in January. Directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah take over for Michael Bay, the film is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and is shot from a Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan screenplay. This is really a love story to Will Smith and Martin Lawrence's Miami detective buddies Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, and the remaining plot is kind of secondary. Bad Boys for Life succeeds based on the charms of its stars, some solid practical action and plenty of nostalgic energy.
When Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo) escapes from prison, she enlists her son Armando (Jacob Scipio) to avenge her late drug kingpin husband, and Lowery (Smith) becomes a target. Shortly after celebrating the birth of Burnett's (Lawrence) grandson, Lowery is shot by Armando on a Miami street, and several other law enforcement officers, a judge and prosecutor related to the kingpin's case are also gunned down. Lowery barely survives and begs Miami Police Department Captain Conrad Howard (Joe Pantoliano) to let him work the case with Burnett, who has secretly submitted his retirement paperwork and tells Lowery he is out of the game. Capt. Howard lets Lowery advise a new crew of Advanced Miami Metro Operations (AMMO) officers, led by Lowery's ex-girlfriend Rita (Paola Nunez), but Lowery cannot stay out of the fray when he realizes Aretas is involved due to a surprising shared connection between the two.
A buddy and I have been awaiting this sequel for years and thought it would never happen. First it was Smith who was not on board, then Bay passed on directing a third installment, and replacement Carnahan left the director's chair after some exciting pre-production developments. When I read that filming had actually begun, I was hopeful the film would at least be a good time, even if it did not match the spectacle of Bad Boys II or the fresh action of the original. I am happy to report that Bad Boys for Life is very much a good time. Perhaps the best decision directors El Arbi and Fallah make is not trying to outdo, rehash or redeem any previous film; they simply play to the franchise's strengths and give audiences more of the characters they've missed for 17 years.
The plot about tracking down Aretas and her son is perfectly fine, especially since Castillo plays the larger-than-life character with sultry menace, but it is not groundbreaking. The filmmakers understand the most compelling scenes involve Lowery and Burnett, and the partners are given plenty of time to reminisce, kick ass, cut up and love life together. Smith and Lawrence are in excellent form here, though it is kind of funny to witness Lawrence's noticeable slimming down as the film progresses. I suppose he got back into shape as the production moved forward. The directors also do not attempt to rewrite these characters; Lowery is still a playboy searching for stability and Burnett is still a risk-averse family man who attempts to keep Lowery grounded. The humor is occasionally lowbrow, but the screenplay displays plenty of quick wit.
In terms of spectacle, Bad Boys for Life falls somewhere between its predecessors. The characters are the stars here as in Bad Boys, but the action is definitely not as impressive as in the overstuffed Bad Boys II. The supporting characters are given time to shine, too, especially Capt. Howard, Rita and her AMMO subordinates, Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens), Rafe (Charles Melton) and Dorn (Alexander Ludwig), who give Lowery's shit right back to him. Also watch for cameos by Bay and rapper DJ Khaled. A mid-film revelation about Lowery and Aretas felt a bit out of left field when I saw the movie in theaters, but I think it works well overall, giving Lowery some perspective. Bad Boys for Life is loud, occasionally profane, often funny and totally entertaining. Long-delayed sequels rarely satisfy, but this third outing for Smith, Lawrence and company does the trick.
THE DIGITAL HD:
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there are expected delays in the shipments, announcements and physical releases of major films and 4K Ultra HD or Blu-ray editions. Such is the case for Bad Boys for Life, which is scheduled to hit the streets on April 21, 2020. I was happy to accept a digital copy code that allowed me to view the HD version of this on VUDU or Movies Anywhere. The picture and sound were certainly acceptable for a streaming release, and I look forward to reviewing the physical disc with bonus content once available.
This long-in-development second sequel to Bad Boys may lack Michael Bay in the director's chair but it is not short on charm and enjoyable buddy-cop action thanks to stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. If you are looking for two hours of entertainment in an uncertain world, Bad Boys for Life comes Highly Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.