Bad Boys for Life

As a fitful franchise’s third entry over 25 years, there’s every reason to suspect that Bad Boys for Life will match the continuing quality of, say, the Crocodile Dundee series. Will Smith’s own recent career problems clearly mark this reunion with Martin Lawrence as a project with all the potential of Beverly Hills Cop III or Another 48 HoursBad Boys II determinedly improved on the original, though, and Bad Boys for Life wins over the audience while catching up with Miami-Dade detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett. It helps that the aging actors already had their mid-life personas established in the earlier movies. Smith’s supercop Mike remains convinced that dodging bullets is the secret of youth, while his partner keeps struggling to live to retirement. The actual plot is pure ’80s direct-to-video, with a depraved drug lord set on killing old enemies – including Mike – by sending out her inventive assassin son who seems to have escaped from a slasher film. The script wisely gives Lawrence a lot of room for a character arc after years away from the multiplexes, and the story is fun enough that most people won’t even notice the parallels to one of Smith’s recent box-office bombs. Bonus points for the producers simply saying, “Yeah, Joe Pantoliano is still their long-suffering captain because everybody just likes the guy.”