Film review: Bad Boys For Life locked and loaded but firing blanks
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence reunite as a pair of tough Miami cops in Bad Boys For Life – but Damon Smith thinks their third outing borders on the criminal
IF IT is possible to teach old dogs new tricks, Bad Boys For Life doesn't try. Arriving 17 years after the bloated and gratuitously violent second instalment, the supposedly final mission of Miami detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) barks to the same tune as its predecessors, albeit without Michael Bay at the helm.
The bombastic ringmaster of the first two films makes a pointless cameo in a party scene but the directorial reins are firmly held here by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah.
The Moroccan-born duo share Bay's penchant for blowing up anything that moves, punctuated by salty wisecracks.
A heady scent of nostalgia permeates as Smith and Lawrence work tirelessly to rekindle the sparky rat-a-tat banter of their badge-wielding buddies.
It takes a good half-hour for the old chemistry to show signs of recovery and when the laughs come, they are sporadic.
Three scriptwriters concoct a perfunctory plot to reunite the leading men and sideswipe us with a final reel twist that teeters on risibility, borrowed wholesale from one of the telenovelas that Marcus watches during his retirement.
Action sequences are gleefully overblown, including a terrific motorcycle and sidecar chase, but digital effects can be clumsy.
An unconvincing computer-generated doppelganger of Smith performs a dangerous descent during a frenetic rooftop pursuit and shatters the suspension of disbelief.
Mike barely survives a ride-by shooting. When he has recovered from his injuries, he hungers for revenge.
Long-time partner Marcus, who has retired from the force to spend more time with his wife (Theresa Randle) and daughter Megan (Bianca Bethune), warns Mike against playing judge, jury and executioner.
His wise counsel falls on deaf ears and Mike goes to war flanked by a team of fresh-faced recruits named AMMO led by old flame Rita (Paola Nunez).
Her three-strong squad of Dorn (Alexander Ludwig), Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens) and Rafe (Charles Melton) are hi-tech hunters, who identify Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo) and her son Armando (Jacob Scipio) as the architect of Mike's close brush with death and the shooter.
Mike persuades Marcus to join him for a final hurrah across the border in Mexico to the chagrin of their antacid-chugging superior, Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano).
"Bad boys ain't really boys anymore," he reminds the pair.
Hard-wired to entertain fans of the series, Bad Boys For Life leans heavily on Smith and Lawrence's bromantic harmony and a few callbacks including the reappearance of Megan's suitor Reggie.
New additions Ludwig, Hudgens and Melton are barely developed as fully-rounded characters beyond their tactical weaponry skills.
It's a missed opportunity when the script shows clear intent to continue the saga with a younger generation.
For now, they are locked and loaded but firing blanks.
BAD BOYS FOR LIFE (15, 124 mins) Action/Thriller/Comedy/Romance. Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Kate del Castillo, Paola Nunez, Jacob Scipio, Joe Pantoliano, Alexander Ludwig, Vanessa Hudgens, Charles Melton, Theresa Randle, Bianca Bethune. Directors: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah.
Released: January 17 (UK & Ireland)