"Never take off the mask."
"Never take off the mask."

Unmasked: “Bad Boys For Life”

A small offtopic … again

Here we are again, with yet another time when I haven’t written any new nonsense for a long time. To be fair, a lot of watched movies have passed through my hands since the last time I scribbled something down but I never got to the point of actually writing anything about them and not because the movies were so bad or anything, it just seems that I’ve reached a moment where I believe that I can’t properly appreciate the quality cinema and I just mention it only to help others discover it and enjoy it (which was the case with “Joker”, for example, which wasn’t something amazing by itself but Joaquin Phoenix was phenomenal; or maybe the not so popular at that time “Parasite” which more or less changed entirely my perspective and view towards the Korean cinema in a very positive way). Or maybe it’s just that 2019 didn’t really offer enough movie-wise (at least from my point of view) …

… Now that I think about it, it could be nice to make the idea that I had happen, i.e. write something, even a little, for each movie that I watched on the big screen by the end of the year only so that you could get a better understanding of how things looked through my prisma and what impressions the seventh art left in me (well now, that didn’t happen ever since I wrote the Bulgarian review, didn’t it?) …

A sequel of the sequel

… But enough talking, let’s go back to today’s discussion topic. Actually it comes after about as much time as it’s been since my last review, i.e. … well, roughly 17-ish years? For the single person who reads this and maybe still doesn’t have any idea about what’s going on, “Bad Boys For Life” is the sequel (that nobody really wanted but the creators were like – why not make it after all) of the movie that’s my age or said otherwise, the (black) buddy cop action with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence which has blasted (pun intended) not only the movie screens in the middle of the last decade of the previous century, but also Michael Bay’s career, or more like his brand – the explosions, towards the Hollywood highs, only so that he can keep on making mediocre or even worse movies (yes, Transformers, I’m talking about you) but that’s a topic for another time. If this explanation sounds too complicated, I’ll try explaining it in a simpler way.

You’ve already watched at least one of the “Bad Boys” movies? That’s great, ’cause this here is exactly the same – Martin Lawrence is the same funny guy with the same vocabulary, including mainly mother-related “compliments” and WIll Smith is the same macho that looks super serious and kicks butts here and there. The difference is that one of them is about 20 kg … bigger and the other one tries to prove wrong all physics and biology laws but let’s agree that’s a writers’ mistake (although by being a producer and a main driving force behind this movie, Smith could have tried a bit harder to stimulate his several brain cells).

The main guys “guilty” for this thing in one of the more memorable and at the same time funny episodes in the 2-hour production.

The other main difference is that this one even lacks one of the few things that were great about the previous movies (and considering the time they came out, it must have looked quite impressive, to be honest), and this is because either Mr. Bay hasn’t received the salary he is supposed to get as a director so “amazing and wanted” that he has decided to tackle again something good but long forgotten, or simply because the high prices have hit Hollywood as well and creating a “blockbuster” laying on the old glory of a 25-year-old franchise is actually not such a cheap process and the budget has to be controlled and cut here and there, hence the reasons. Therefore we get not one, but two completely unknown directors who not only skip fulfilling the saying that two heads think better than one and whose explosions don’t, and when I say it it means that they really don’t, work out, but also give us a half-baked creation which is nothing more than the next generic action that’s being given to us for no specific (other than finance related) reason.

The good news is that the action still has its (so-so) moments and another saying comes in play, i.e. – nostalgia hits hard, which is obviously what this movie depends on since if the headliners didn’t include these two and the film’s name was … “Good Men”, let’s say, then no one would care about it and even if someone did, they would ask themselves the question: “Why do we get this in 2020, are we in the ’90s or something?” and would be absolutely correct to do so.

A lot of changes – (not) for the better?

It’s actually the nostalgic ’90s vibe that can be felt in this movie and the slight modernization that somehow manage to carry Aziz and Halall’s … apologies, Adil & Bilall’s production. Because otherwise, from a pure plot-wise point of view, “Bad Boys For Life” fails hard. The story around the whole sequel (threequel?) is very poorly scripted, the sequence of actions is needlessly dramatic just because everyone knows what will happen next and the idea for some suspense around the whole Mike Lowrey situation didn’t quite fit, especially bearing in mind how, after his downfall, he came back faster, stronger and about 30 years younger. I know that we’re talking about a movie and about the immortal Will Smith after all, but still, in this case it felt like he came a bit too far with the amount of damage he can take without any visual effect.

And not to even mention the romantic element that surrounded the previous movies as well and which is so botched in this one that if I hadn’t made a movie marathon of the other two in the last 24 hours, I would think the following: firstly, I would have no idea whether the things from the past that are mentioned here actually happened and I just didn’t remember them; secondly, I would try to explain to myself what exactly happened with Syd, for example, and whether I’m the only one that thinks they did a very weak job in trying to cover it up; thirdly, it looked to me like Mike and Rita had no chemistry whatsoever and the whole story around them was casually put there, because why not? Oh, and let’s not forget, Mr. Detective Marcus, who has recently become a grandpa, didn’t even think for a moment to give up or do something just because he’s a grandpa now, right (apart from the fact that he’s been talking about it for three movies now, of course), but suddenly became quite a believer (I admit, though, I laughed at the Bible joke).

Mike Low-ree has obviosuly upgraded during the 17 years in which we didn’t see him on the screen and here we can notice a pretty good looking Porsche 911, and it’s even from 2020.

The truth is that illogical things happen quite often here and I don’t want to get into details in order not to spoil anything (for whoever hasn’t already watched the movie but wanted to, which would be quite surprising considering almost an year and a half has passed at the time of writing this review) but I never really got into the idea of the “generation handover” and this unnecessary filling with new faces and characters which are supposed to be something like sidekicks of “our” guys only so that they can fit in potential new movies as well, which actually seems to be the case (a small offtopic here: I’m collecting ideas and suggestions in the comments about how you would name a potential fourth part ’cause I was about to bet my money on “Bad Boys 4 Life” but now I’d have to change it to something else like “Bad Boys 4ever” or similar, since there are not really a lot of options left there). I don’t mind the young generation of actors at all (the sparkles between Mike and Rafe were pretty weak at the beginning, for example, but the two managed to throw some cool and good-humored jokes towards the end) since they obviously also targeted the young generation of viewers who are already more or less familiar with these faces (although Smith’s one keeps appearing here and there, no matter whether they’re called Will or Jaden, or even Jada) but still, considering the fact that we’re talking about a movie that relies mainly on the nostalgic element and the chemistry between its main actors and their ridiculous dialogues, the whole connection with the newer, younger elite crew felt somewhat irrelevant.

Why should you watch it and why not?

Talking about chemistry, the bromance between Mike and Marcus is probably the most successful thing in this movie again and the two of them literally carry all the rest on their shoulders (well, apart from the captain, I guess, but he’s a separate and well built character ever since the first movie). The cool thing is that, excluding Smith and Lawrence’s physical condition (or to be completely honest – fat, old and almost bald), their dialogues sound natural, they exchange 16+ jokes as well as black, and I mean black, humour among the hottest and most dramatic scenes and a couple of other things are there too – jokes about Marcus’ sexual life, Mike’s relationship problems and everything else that two best buddies would talk about (well, mentioning the need of glasses became a bit too much at one point but it’s nothing serious). 25 years working together both as on-screen policemen and as actors (to some extent) are obviously paying off and here the need for a taste of the good ol’ medicine of such duos, i.e. when they show their commitment to each other with jokes, burns, trolling or whatever you’d like to call it, actually works for some weird reason.

– Yoo, mah man, you know what I thought of now?
– You think what I think, right?
– Dayum n***a, you wanna eat a Turkish kebab as well?
– Oh hell no, man, I remembered that as much as people like this bullsh*t, Jaden will still not be an actor good enough to include in the second sequel.
– See, bro, the truth is that all of your problems are solved by a single sentence – what can’t be done with money can be done with a lot of money! Woo-saaah.
– Amin, brother, amin. I hope Black Jesus heard you, now let’s go grab one of those kebabs you mentioned, but the ones with a lot of white sauce.

The issue in this case is that the focus is on these two so much that they completely overshadow the younger and rather talented stars such as Vanessa Hudgens, Charles Melton and Nicky Jam (although the latter is talented in something else and not acting but still talented – it’s become a somewhat of a tendency for popular singers to try to become movie actors, without success though) who look like they’ve been sent back in the corner of the room but their dunce hats say “useless”. The only rather interesting and fitting character is the one of Bjorn Ironside … apologies, Alexander Ludwig, who takes a drastic change from the norse mythology towards the gym boys who are also actual IT gurus, for their own reasons.

On the female latin side we get Paola Núñez and Kate del Castillo whose characters are fine but who are not convincing at all and seem to be there only to add to the completely unnecessary drama that’s missing from this anyhow weak storyline. Theresa Randle is as much a charming as she’s an old copy of the chick Burnett from last century, the other one that brings a bit of freshness on the stage is Joe Pantoliano who, even almost in his 70s, manages to play a rather memorable character who might actually reach the minds of the audience and get out of the dark vicious circle that the two guys on the cover have formed.

For everything outside the story

Will Smith is playing the badass again and obviously doesn’t even look like his 50-ish age as he jumps and crawls on the floor with the speed of an african athlete competing at 100m and shoots with the aim of a hunter that chases the former.

Talking about fresh (and not so much) things, I already said that even though I’m not really a big fan of Michael Bay productions, his missing here is definitely noticeable. Purely visual-wise the movie doesn’t look bad but it’s definitely not on the level it should be when talking about movies not only from this decade, but also from the previous one. On the other hand, though, the soundtrack is pretty well selected and apart from the cult theme song which the two main heroes never managed to learn and which is included in like 50% of the jokes that remind us about the good ol’ times, we get a quite decent remix of the ’90s hit, also known as “Is it a Reebok or a Nike”, as well as a rather forgotten Pitbull who uses the little Jon alongside him to remind the world of himself. Lorne Balfe has a pretty solid discography behind him (one of the last scores of which is still made for one of Bay’s works) and this is pretty obvious here as Miami is one of the few locations in the movie that still look and feel alive and improve the positive mood to a level where even the idea that the “new” in this movie is cool and trendy can be sensed.

So, good or bad … boys?

The truth is that I don’t really know how I managed to write so much nonsense about this mediocre movie. I wouldn’t say that “Bad Boys For Life” is a cash grab but I wouldn’t say that it’s the most logical and necessary sequel ever made either and I could easily remember the “bad boys” with fondness without having to watch their (hopefully) last retirement fight. On one hand, it has been said that everything new is simply a pretty well forgotten old and this somewhat helps Mr. Smith’s decision work, but on the other, I really, really didn’t like that small door they left open for a potential new movie in the franchise because if this movie was unnecessary, then a next one would be completely meaningless. Or to sum it up in three words, “hasta el fuego” – or let’s burn the script’s sheets before they’ve seen the light of day!

It is a fact that “we ride together, we die together” is a motto that still encourages a lot of teenagers, ready to get wasted at Sunny Beach, for example, since everything is supposed to happen like in the movies according to them, but in this case it’s more than enough to kill two hours of spare time in which you can lie down, remember how good it was “back in the days” (i.e. somewhere in the ’80s, I guess) and chill, knowing that this time it’s not even your country that’s getting destroyed but the Mexican one, in an explosive, mad and fiery fashion, in an action having no big ambitions apart from … okay, let me try again … “Bad Boys 4 The Win”?

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