Bad Boys for Life (3 stars)

Bad Boys for Life

The third film in the Will Smith-fronted action franchise makes for an entertaining reunion

It's been 25 years since the original Bad Boys – the Lethal Weapon / Miami Vice hybrid that launched the movie careers of former music video director Michael Bay and then-Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Will Smith.

Smith was teamed with comic Martin Lawrence, and together they shot up the streets of Miami as bad boy cops Mike Lowrey (the womanising one with the flash car) and family man Marcus Burnett in Bay's glossy action thriller and its dreadful 2003 sequel. Thankfully, this slick threequel erases memories of that cinematic disaster and even manages to improve on the original.

Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, film school pals who made the Belgian crime dramas Black and Gangsta, take over directing duties from the serially over-the-top Bay (though he does pop up for a cameo), and while they pack the movie with the expected explosions, chases and gun-play (and there is a lot of shooting), they also leave time to develop the relationship between the leads.

More than two decades on, Mike (Smith) may be dyeing his goatee and Marcus (Lawrence) may need glasses, but little else has changed. They still don't play by the rules or hesitate before beating up a bad guy, but while Mike is happy to go on this way forever, the birth of his grandson means Marcus is ready to retire.

However, after Mike is gunned down and almost killed, the partners pair up once more – but this time their weary captain (Joe Pantoliano) won't let them go it alone. Instead, they are teamed with a new police division called AMMO, led by Mike's ex-girlfriend Rita (Paola Nuñez). Their job is to track down a Mexican baddie named Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo) who is getting her son Armando (Jacob Scipio) to wreak revenge on those who have wronged them, including Mike.

Cue lots more gun-play in broad daylight (it's a mystery that no bystanders get struck by bullets with so many of them flying about), as the boys and their younger AMMO associates – including muscular technician Dorn (Alexander Ludwig) and kick-ass officer Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens) – attempt to solve the case.

While a final showdown with Isabel and Armando, both in terms of plot twists and special effects, is bonkers, and there are some clunky moments in the script, Bad Boys for Life is still great fun and the most purely entertaining movie Smith has made in a while. There are some nice nods to the duo's advancing age, and their onscreen chemistry (and ability to convince when delivering cheesy lines) is every bit as enjoyable as it was all those years ago.

General release from Fri 17 Jan.

Bad Boys for Life

  • 3 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • 2h 3min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah
  • Cast: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Paola Núñez, Kate del Castillo, Nicky Jam, Joe Pantoliano, Thomas Brag

Mike (Smith) and Marcus (Lawrence) are back, tracking down a mysterious assassin with the help of younger colleagues. The best film in the franchise so far, it’s full of the expected action but also develops the relationship between the leads. Great fun, and the most purely entertaining movie Smith has made in a while.