Michael Bay, the man responsible for a whole host of explosion-filled crimes against cinema such as the long running Transformers franchise, was never going to somehow suddenly conjure up perfection with Bad Boys for Life. His latest work won’t go down in history as a masterpiece, but that does not mean it is totally unenjoyable.
For a start, the film is surprisingly self-aware. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, the gunslinging duo tasked with taking on a ruthless cartel, aren’t the young men that they used to be. Although the “they are getting old!” gag is in danger of being overdone, there are still some mildly amusing jibes and even some thoughtful themes imbedded in parts of the dialogue. Laurence laments that it is perhaps time to stop being “Bad Boys” and instead be “good men”; an example of a moment which feels genuinely well executed.
None of this comes close to rescuing the film entirely. Kate del Costillo’s performance as the matriarch of a Mexican drug cartel is largely uninspiring and the plot which intertwines her and Will Smith’s character is far from gripping. The twists and turns feel somewhat contrived, albeit sufficiently believable that the film remains bearable. The cinematography, although I’m reluctant to use the term for camera work that lacks the slightest artistic inspiration, is devoid of any standout shots. True, an action film such as this is not necessarily reliant on a masterful use of the lens, but a few more intelligently filmed sequences wouldn’t go amiss.
Will Smith puts in the performance that he has provided so regularly over the years, and it does a lot to carry Bad Boys for Life. He radiates charisma and his chemistry with Martin Lawrence is undeniable – although the latter is undeniably the inferior actor of the two, occasionally lapsing into cringeworthy delivery.
More problematic is the inclusion of an array of new characters tasked with aiding the fight against the cartel. Of the four crack shot agents, none of them are particularly valuable additions. Character development is not Michael Bay’s strongpoint, yet he has managed to really fail here. The new squadron amount to little more than a handful of caricatures; the confident leader, the geek and two stone-faced fighters. There is little reason to care for the fate of these characters, ensuring the action sequences are not racked with the appropriate degree of tension.
That said, the action scenes themselves are a satisfying spectacle. The final showdown is as chaotic and stupid as it is mindlessly entertaining, as are the tense car chases and fist fights – all interspersed with Smith and Lawrence’s amusing quips. It’s not an inspiring formula, but it just about works. Bad Boys for Life is not a film you need to see, and it isn’t worth an expensive ticket at an inconvenient time. But if you’ve time on your hands and simply want chewing gum for the brain, maybe it’s worth a shot.
Image: SONY via Wikipedia