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  Bad Boys for Life Officers With Attitude
Year: 2020
Director: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah
Stars: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Paola Nuñez, Kate del Castillo, Nicky Jam, Joe Pantoliano, Jacob Scipio, Theresa Randle, DJ Khaled, Happy Anderson, Bianca Bethune, Dennis Greene, Michael Bay
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Miami police detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) have had some good news recently: Marcus has become a grandfather, and Mike helped him attend the birth - in a hundred mile an hour dash to the maternity hospital in his sports car. But this prompts Marcus to admit this is going to change their professional relationship in a big way: he wants out of the police force. It is time for him to retire, he believes, but this decision could not have come at a worse time, for there is someone out there who wants to see to it that Mike is executed, gangland-style, and she is Mexican cartel queen Isabel (Paola Nuñez), escaped from prison and vengeful...

Bad Boys for Life showed up in the world's cinemas in January, traditionally something of a dead zone for blockbusters, yet confounded all expectations - very belated third instalment in a franchise, two stars perceived as past their prime, the original director not returning, and so forth - by becoming one of the biggest hits of the year. Audiences flocked to see this as if it were the action flick equivalent of slipping on a pair of comfy slippers, they knew what they were going to see it for, and superproducer Jerry Bruckheimer gave it to them. That comfort in knowing there were no real surprises here, aside from a late on twist that was hard to believe, was all over this familiar effort.

Of course, for many the law of diminishing returns had set in and this was a pale imitation of the Michael Bay style, but he showed up to give his blessing in a wedding scene that he apparently directed himself. His replacement was a pair of Belgians who had evidently been studying his flashy technique, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, judging by their previous, European films, that could have passed for slick Hollywood entries had they not been in non-English languages. Under Bruckheimer's tutelage, they understood precisely what they were required to carry out, a bit of comedy, some soap opera-style drama, and selected high octane shooting, punching and racing scenes.

There was even a hint of a social conscience, as per the duo's European work, as early on we were invited to question the value of watching characters being gunned down which is brought home when Mike is shot in the street. There's a bit of business with Smith lying in intensive care for six months as Lawrence dotes over him, but despite nearly dying, it's not serious for Mike and soon he is back right as rain to get on with the shooting and the punching and the racing, but you do wonder if this would have been quite as big a hit as it was had it appeared in the summer, after the Black Lives Matter movement called into question the validity of police violence. Of course, had this been held back to the middle of 2020 it would not have made the same impact with the coronavirus restrictions.

Nevertheless, a movie where law enforcers go about enforcing the law with violence did not sit too well in its year, not that Bad Boys for Life was anything other than a live action cartoon, but post-May it did make you think. If you set that to one side, and the unexpected amount of crying, this was an adequate thriller with comedy that did raise a laugh every so often, for the stars had a pleasing chemistry and there were plenty of gags about their age to remind you they were not getting any younger. That twist for Smith's character was weirdly reminiscent of his immediately previous movie, Gemini Man, which had been a flop, and it could have been that if the relationship between Mike and the cartel villains had been upfront this would have put some off, as it was more like a Fast and Furious sequel than a Bad Boys instalment. There were even plot points about "family" in a Vin Diesel-attracting manner. But in the main, the directors were adept enough to make you forget about Bay for solid, undemanding action nonsense. Music by Lorne Balfe.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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