Bad Boys for Life (2020)

*. I suppose the first thing I should say here is that I haven’t seen Bad Boys (1995) or Bad Boys II (2003) (both directed by Michael Bay, who appears here in a cameo). I don’t think I ever will see them. So this most recent entry in the franchise gets no nostalgia points from me.
*. Or maybe it does, given that it’s such a generic buddy-cop action-flick, harkening back to the glory days of Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson (and this is announced as a Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer film, though Simpson has been dead for a while). I remember those days well. And can we say that they have passed? Bad Boys for Life raked in over $400 million in box office while receiving generally favourable reviews, making it one of the biggest hits of the plague year.
*. Is that down mainly to the power of nostalgia? The American writer Kurt Andersen has written a lot about how important nostalgia is to the culture and politics of the twenty-first century, and I have to say I haven’t always gotten on board with his theories. But you have to acknowledge he has a point, at least based on the evidence of the sorts of movies we’ve been getting.
*. And so we have this belated follow-up, which, coming after17 years, was still far less than the 29 years that elapsed between Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and Face the Music. Meanwhile, warhorses like Rambo and the Predator have kept getting trotted out. Is this nostalgia though, or just a case of Hollywood trying to milk the brand recognition? Or does it make a difference? It doesn’t if the brand is nostalgia. This makes me wonder if nostalgia is all we have left. I mean, it’s basically all I have left, but I would have thought younger people had other interests in life than watching another Bad Boys movie.
*. The thing is, I’m not sure there’s anything here that I felt the 2010s was either missing or in need of. This kind of high-octane action-comedy has always been with us. And while there are jokes about Marcus (Martin Lawrence) needing glasses and Mike (Will Smith) colouring his goatee, there’s nothing here to make us think that either man is a dinosaur. Sure they’re more old school than the kids in AMMO, and they don’t like to follow the rules (they never have!), but they know what a drone is, and how to crack a cell phone.
*. The movie itself? There are gun fights. And fist fights. And chase scenes involving cars, motorcycles, and helicopters. Cars, motorcycles, and helicopters all get blown up. There is some basic banter between our two leads. Will Smith’s wardrobe changes rival those of Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. There is a plot that has a drug queen looking to get revenge on Mike for something he did in his past. I’m not sure if this was meant to be a twist. I found it a big stretch and ultimately not interesting at all.
*. Nostalgia is about the only thing it has going for it. The action stuff is well handled, but there’s nothing new or interesting about any of it. Mike rolling on a dolly while shooting two pistols at the same time? That may not seem like much, but everything else struck me as very formulaic. Like that old abandoned hotel they shoot up at the end. Where will they meet? Of course, at some place that will provide an epic backdrop for a giant fire fight! And how come it’s sunny out when they go into the hotel, but it’s the middle of the night and raining just a few minutes later when the shit hits the fan?
*. “One last time,” the bad boys promise each other. A promise unlikely to be kept, given how well the film performed. The title may be taken as fair warning that we’re going to be in this for a long haul. But would just a few fresh ideas damage the nostalgic feeling? Or are we doomed to remixes for life?

3 thoughts on “Bad Boys for Life (2020)

  1. tensecondsfromnow

    I’m saying this for a lazy day; quite like the first film, but the second is very overbblown, and it’s the bad comedy that really kills it. I’ve come to accept that every idea witll be rebooted, sequalised and remade, and see no point in fighting against the tide of brand recognition…

    1. Alex Good Post author

      Well, as long as you keep expectations geared for just another action film shoot-’em-up you won’t be disappointed. I’m a bit surprised this one did so well but I guess the stars were still a draw. Certainly not interesting enough to make me want to go back and watch the earlier movies. I think the first one was Michael Bay’s debut as a director though, so it has an important place in the history of cinema.


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