Review – Smith & Lawrence are Bad, but that’s Good (“Bad Boys for Life”)

Bad boys, bad boys. Whatcha gonna do? Well, here’s the third film in the franchise that nobody thought would ever happen, since Will Smith normally doesn’t do sequels and Martin Lawrence has had some health issues. Plus, super producer/director Michael Bay stepped away from the project this time around.

It’s been 17 years since the last Bad Boys film but the boys, Miami detectives Marcus Burnett (Lawrence ) and Mike Lowrey (Smith), want you remind you of the title of this film, ’cause they keep saying it every ten minutes… y’know, in case you forget. Anyway, after many years of cheating death, shoot-outs, explosions, and run-in’s with dangerous drug cartels, Marcus decides to call it quits and retire, much to the chagrin of Mike, who wants to keep going (“Bad boys for life!”). But unknown to them, super-evil Isabel Aretas (Kate DelCastillo) has escaped from prison and charged her equally evil son, Armando (Jacob Scipio) to carry out a mission of revenge: resurrect their old drug cartel and kill off the men who put her away & killed her husband. And one of them is Mike Lowrey!

After Mike is shot and almost killed, he wants revenge on whoever tried to off him, even though screaming Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) tells him to back off, preferring the new kids on the block to take over. These newbies are a younger elite crime fighting team called AMMO (Advanced Miami Metro Operations) with more tech-stuff than weapons. Their leader is the beautiful Rita (Paola Nunez), a former flame of Mike’s, so there’s so lotsa tension there. As Armando carries out his ‘hit list’, Mike gets more and more frustrated and decides to take matters in his own hands, without his partner whose happily retired and found God too boot. But as soon as a death hits close to home, Marcus comes out of his short-lived retirement to rejoin Mike (“Bad boys for life? Bad boys for life!”).

Teaming up with AMMO, they track down Armando’s friend, Zway-Lo (Nicky Jam) at a nightclub, and let the chase/stunts/explosions begin! From there it’s one chase after another, one shoot-out after another with explosions, stunts galore, more shootings, and all the while Mike & Marcus trading off wise-cracks and one-liners at each other. One thing is for sure, Michael Bay may have left the franchise, but his signature fingerprints are all over this movie as if he directed it. Fact is, Bay even shows up in a cameo as a wedding ceremony MC!

The screenplay, written by newbie Chris Bremner, Peter Craig (The Town), and Joe Carnahan (Death Wish), didn’t stray from the Bad Boys formula: simple, dumb plot, witty banter, excessive violence, explosions, and chases & shoot-outs up the kazoo. Aside from the obvious plot holes (and there are alot of them!), the script this time around has some genuine real moments between Lawrence & Smith when they’re not yelling or trying to out one-liner each other. It’s obvious their chemistry is undeniable and it’s in these quieter scenes you can see it unfold. And even though all those impressive car chases, explosions, shoot-outs, and crazy stunt-work is mind-blowing, after two hours of it, it does tend to get a bit long in the tooth.

And speaking of said car chases, explosions, shoot-outs, and crazy stunt-work, ya gotta give it up for the directing team of Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah (known on screen as Adil & Bilall). This is their directorial debut, having only done only some short films and the TV series, Snowfall, but you wouldn’t have known it by their camera moves that copycat Michael Bay’s right down to his signature sweeping circle moves, slo-mo’s, multi-color panoramic scenes, smash edits, and those insane stunts which are shot like a pro. Just look at the finale shoot-out in the abandoned Mexico hotel, it’s awesome and worthy of a seasoned director like Paul Greengrass or David Leitch. These guys pulled it off with outrageous flair.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence after 17 years haven’t lost any of their charm or appeal in this franchise, which was in danger of collapsing after the last movie. They’ve actually mellowed a bit and that suits their characters as being ‘the old guys’ in a running gag. One sad note is the ineffectual use of previous cast members,  Theresa Randle & Gabrielle Union as Marcus’ wife & sister. One is hardly seen and the other is missing altogether! The film ends with a wink at a possible part four (Bad Boys 4 Ever?) and I hope these two stick around for one more round… just as long as they stop mentioning the title all the time!

Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)

In the history of ‘cop-buddy’ movies, this franchise is probably the best known. As far as sequels (and as the old saying goes), they shoulda stopped at number three. Danny Glover and Mel Gibson are the perfect pair of police detectives that get into the most ridiculous and death-defying predicaments alive.

In this threequel, it’s that usual third movie trope where one member of the team is gonna retire, but doggoneit! Something bad always goes down to prevent that from happening! It was either that or time-travel. Anyway, we start off the movie (like all the others) with a bang. A BIG bang! Soon-to-retire Sgt. Roger Murtaugh (Glover) and his looney-tunes partner Martin Riggs (Gibson) are demoted to street cops after they accidentally blow up a building. But even as beat cops, they get into trouble. While thwarting a robbery, they stumbled upon an arms smuggling ring in L.A.

But what they don’t know is, they guy pulling the strings is former LAPD Lt. Jack Travis (Stuart Wilson). Worse yet, the bullets being sold are ‘cop-killers’ (armor -piercing). Riggs and Murtaugh are re-promoted and assigned to work with classy Sergeant Lorna Cole (Rene Russo) from internal affairs to track down Travis. As things are heating up, Lorna & Martin start to have feelings for each other while they beat some thugs up. And, of course, who should pop-up but good ‘ol Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) to mess things up. Looks like sleazy Leo is in the real estate game this time and tells his pals that Travis is connected with some shady dealings. Could the two be connected?

Look out for car chases, shoot-outs galore, fist-fights, more shoot-outs, ending with a fire-fight in a burning housing development. Screenwriters Jeffrey Boam (Lethal Weapon 2) and Robert Mark Kamen (The Karate Kid 2 & 3) really knew how to write for this franchise, giving the guys just the right beats. But after this movie, a part four came out that really scraped the bottom of the barrel. Best to watch this film as the conclusion, and leave it at that. The team of Riggs & Murtaugh has always been fan-favorites, even with loud-mouthed Leo Getz as their nutty nemesis and comic relief.

Director Richard Donner, no stranger to doing action/adventure movies (Superman II, The Goonies, Ladyhawke) did all the Lethal Weapon movies and his style is evident. The camera moves, the smoky-jazz soundtracks, and his excellence for putting out quality work. There are several YouTube videos called Mel Gibson’s Video Diary that show the playfulness on the Lethal Weapon set, including Donner & Gibson ad-libbing a scene about socks. Funny stuff!

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