After 17 years, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are back for one last ride. The original Bad Boys launched Michael Bay‘s (Transformers) career as a director of highly explosive action blockbusters, but it’s Belgian directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah who get a shot at directing their first big budget Hollywood film.

One last ride, but the stakes are higher than ever. They gained a bit of weight, their hair lost its colour and they’re ready to retire. When we meet our bickering partners in crime, Miami P.D. detective duo Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Bennett (Lawrence) are on their way to the hospital to meet Marcus’ first grandchild. At the same time, Isabel “La Bruja” Aretas (Kate del Castillo), violently escapes from prison and takes control over a Miami-based cartel, pulling the strings via her son Armando (Jacob Scipio). What happens later that night back in Miami, all links back to the Miami police force and will change our buddies’ lives forever.

Bad Boys For Life has been in the works for over a decade. The script was never good enough for our stars to sign up for, but in hands of Joe Carnahan (Narc), Peter Craig (The Town) and first time screenplay writer Chris Bremner, we get a fast paced, action packed and to the brim filled with jokes story that keeps your attention for the full two hours. Even when not every joke lands, the chemistry Smith and Lawrence bring back to the screen, that feels particularly nostalgic to fans of the previous two films, is endearing and smile inducing.

Lawrence hasn’t been in a lot of films for the big screen in the last 10 years, after his own Big Momma-franchise bit the dust in 2011. Seeing him come back to form in a graceful way that reminds us of his comedy heydays, is a warm reminder of his talent, that will make you want to rewatch his older hits. It’s great to see Smith back in an action comedy, when it also looks like he’s having a lot of fun on set. His Mike is the main star of this story, who also gets an eye-opening third act that hints at a possible fourth film. And if this chapter does well, why wouldn’t the studio try and make this into the franchise it so desperately always could have been.

A bunch of new side characters get introduced, most of them in the form of younger team members on the squad. Each one of them has a well rounded personality, yet lacks a bit of background in why they act the way they do. Besides VikingsAlexander Ludwig as bouncer-turned-IT-pro, which comes across a bit awkward – but that’s part of the gag – and team leader Rita (Paola Nuñez) who’s had a romantic past with Mike. Joe Pantoliano is back as the foulmouthed loud Captain Howard, stealing every scene he’s in, while the fresh new British actor Jacob Scipio, who plays bad guy Armando, knows how to command your attention with his piercing eyes and stand tall next to well known actors such as Smith.

What especially stands out is how different yet classy the action sequences are compared to Bay’s typical style of explosive car wrecking highway car chase kind of “Bayhem”. Particularly the whimsical yet stylish cinematography by Robrecht Heyvaert (Adil and Bilall’s ‘Black’) combined with Lorne Balfe‘s (Mission: Impossible – Fallout) rousing score in one scene that starts of in a club, to then evolve smoothly into a car chase to then turn into a gunfight and motorbike-explosive-neon-lit-extravaganza, is extremely well choreographed and reminiscent of last year’s John Wick 3‘s horse riding motorbike chase through New York. The thrilling action pieces blend well with the enormous amount of one liners and throwbacks to earlier chapters. A few shocking unexpected moments will have you gasp for air, while surprising cameos are there to amp up laughter.

Bad Boys For Life is a successful international feature debut for Adil and Bilall, who – after witnessing this – could possibly revive a franchise like Beverly Hills Cop any day now. All thrills and gags, without ever toning down the gore and profanity, this chapter is without a doubt the strongest and most engaging one out of the trilogy. An action comedy that delivers on every level.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review – ‘Bad Boys For Life’

Reviewed at Event Cinemas, Sydney, Jan. 15, 2019. Australian Classification: MA15+. Running time: 123 min.

PRODUCTION: A Sony Pictures Releasing release and presentation of an Columbia Pictures picture in association with 2.0 Entertainment of a Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Overbrook Entertainment production. Producers: Doug Belgrad, Jerry Bruckheimer, Will Smith. Executive producers: James Lassiter, Chad Oman, Mike Stenson, Barry H. Waldman, Bill Bannerman.

CREW: Directors: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah. Screenplay: Chris Bremner, Peter Craig, Joe Carnahan; story: Peter Craig, Joe Carnahan; based on characters by: George Gallo. Camera: Robrecht Heyvaert. Editors: Dan Lebental, Peter McNulty. Music: Lorne Balfe.

WITH: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Alexander Ludwig, Vanessa Hudgens, Joe Pantoliano, Paola Nuñez, Charles Melton, Kate del Castillo, Jacob Scipio, DJ Khaled, Nicky Jam.

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