A little extra aging has done Bad Boys for Life no harm

Chris Knight: Bad Boys for Life features some fascinating bending of the laws of physics that fall into three categories; bodies, vehicles, and explode-y things

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Ben Rothstein/Sony Pictures

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In the latest chapter in the long-running (and long dormant) Bad Boys franchise, Will Smith’s Miami PD detective must face off against a younger clone of himself.

Nah; I’m messing with you. The threat this time is a Mexican ex-con (Kate del Castillo) and her trigger-happy son Armando (Jacob Scipio) who have a vendetta against Detective Mike Lowrey over an incident that predates even the first Bad Boys from 1995. No, it’s not The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

That first movie and its 2003 sequel were notable for their explosions, sexism and homophobia. This being 2020, returning producer Jerry Bruckheimer has dialed up the first of these and all but eliminated the other two.

But fans of the chemistry between detectives Lowrey and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) will find that little has changed. A little older and a little greyer, Mike continues to hassle Marcus over his too-careful driving, and the tension between Mike’s life as a committed bachelor and Marcus’s family-first ethos continues. Even Joe Pantoliano is back as the long-suffering Captain Howard.

New to the crew is Paola Nuñuz as Rita, heading up an elite task force called AMMO that specializes in high-tech surveillance and comic relief, and operates out of what looks like an abandoned heroes’ HQ from one of the Fantastic Four movies. Mike tolerates them because he had/has a thing for Rita, but he can only handle going by the book for so long. “Bad Boys one last time!” he says to Marcus, which is clearly a lie – just watch the mid-credit sequence, or note that Smith is already attached to Bad Boys 4. Less duplicitous is his credo: “Violence is what we do!”

Bad Boys for Life features some fascinating bending of the laws of physics that fall into three categories; bodies, vehicles, and explode-y things. When it comes to bodies, the hand-to-hand fight scenes feel realistic enough. Not so much the vehicles, which have a tendency to show up in the right place and time regardless of whether they have enough actual time to get there. And things explode realistically, though a touch more easily than in real life.

The movie runs a shade over two hours, which is several shades longer than it needs to, but at least you can tell how close you are to the end by the level of on-screen mayhem. Once the action moves to Mexico (where else are you going to have a proper standoff?), it’s clear that things are close to winding down.

But credit to Belgian co-directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah for adroitly handling the film’s mix of comedy and drama – one minute the boys are getting Buddhist life lessons from their captain, and the next they’re arguing about what constitutes the proper level of firepower to use in a motorcycle chase – during said motorcycle chase.

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It’s all grandly silly stuff, and it’s been pushed around for years. There was a time when it was scheduled to open on Feb. 17, 2017, and another point where Sony removed it from its schedule altogether.

But fans at a recent promo screening seemed thrilled to have it on the screen at last. I wouldn’t go so far as to call the product fine wine, but a little extra aging seems to have done it no harm. So watcha gonna do?

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