Bad Boys for Life (2020)

Bad Boys for Life (2020)
Bad Boys For Life poster
IMDb

Bad Boys for Life. Directed by: Adil and Bilal. Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens. Runtime: 2h 4 min. Released: January 17, 2020.

Bad Boys for Life is a lot of fun and, after this and Bumblebee, proves the best way to reinvigorate a franchise is to remove Michael Bay as director. Who knew?

The new directors here, Adil and Bilall, bring fun action and more importantly a solid story (screenplay by Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan) as Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), narcotics cops with the Miami Police Department, don’t investigate narcotics this time. It feels fresh as it goes into a revenge story by someone from Mike’s past, and the film is revenge-fueled from both the villain and hero side.

As they’re older now, the film challenges Mike’s mortality and invincibility in interesting ways. It’s a story about knowing when to quit and because of that Marcus’ concerns feel natural for the plot because there’s a reason to get out of the game right now. In the first two films, the reason was just because Mike was a reckless partner. Mike is still reckless but he learns the importance of reliance, too. It’s a sequel with surprisingly insightful and emotional beats.

I liked the villains here a lot, played by Kate del Castillo and Jacob Scipio, but I won’t discuss their motives. I’ll just say they’re the franchise’s most interesting villains so far.

Familiar faces besides the main two are back like Reggie (Dennis Greene), Marcus’ daughter’s boyfriend who shows in his acting why he’s only ever had that role (sorry, Reggie) but it’s funny seeing him again. I also love seeing Joe Pantoliano as Captain Howard. Pantoliano gives me as much nostalgia as Mike and Marcus.

It is also intriguing how our Bad Boys join forces with others and that’s in the form of a new unit within the MPD called AMMO (Advanced Miami Metro Operations) which is the new driving out the old.

The crew consists of Mike’s sort-of ex-girlfriend Rita (Paola Nuñez), and their banter is solid throughout. The youth of this group features Vanessa Hudgens as Kelly, Alexander Ludwig as Dorn (a tech guy with a punch) and Charles Melton as Rafe. They’re a good presence but I don’t think anyone here but Hudgens leaves an impression. It seems to me like they’re going for a 21 Jump Street vibe with their youth and gadgets. They’re a good complementary team to the film and I’d like to see them team up with our Bad Boys in a future installment, but I’m not ready for a spin-off film with them. That’s because Will Smith still kicks ass in the role even at the age of 51.

Bad Boys for Life article
Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in Bad Boys for Life. (IMDb)

Martin Lawrence isn’t a big part of the action scenes until the end for story reasons, but he’s great at the end and it’s nice to see that 25 years after the first film, their chemistry still shines. Their banter is great and I’d argue their chemistry is the best it’s been in the franchise. They still don’t see eye to eye, but they’re beginning to compromise.

It is delightful that this premise still works so well because there’s actually a good story and strong directing team to match the great pairing of Smith and Lawrence. Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (as Adil and as Bilall)’s directorial style never distracts, and they know how to shoot action. Some editing in action films can be hectic, but the action is shot well here by cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert.

I don’t hate Michael Bay as a director, but his films can be headache-inducing with the style. It’s apparent the franchise doesn’t mean any ill-well against Bay as he plays a Wedding MC in the film, and that’s the best place for him where his directorial style can’t shoot the Bad Boys in the foot. He lets them do the shooting.

Adil and Bilall also make this story work because the direction makes the story feel less cartoonish than the first two films, but it’s still outrageous. It’s awesome that the Bad Boys have found a pair of directors that brings out the best of them: And that’s in terms of story, action, comedy and heart. Bad Boys for Life is the best and most balanced film in the trilogy.

Score: 80/100

Bad Boys (1995), Bad Boys II (2003)

Bad Boys (1995), Bad Boys II (2003)

Today I wanted to review the first two Bad Boys films before I post a review of Bad Boys For Life tomorrow. They’re shorter reviews so I’ve just included them in the same post.

Bad Boys 1 article

Martin Lawrence and Téa Leoni in Bad Boys. (IMDb)

Bad Boys. Directed by: Michael Bay. Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Téa Leoni. Runtime: 1h 59 min. Released: April 7, 1995.

Two hip detectives, Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), protect a witness, Julie Mott (Téa Leoni), while investigating a case of stolen heroin from the evidence storage room at their police precinct.

Michael Bay’s debut film, Bad Boys, has some of his signature explosions and action and camera angles, but nothing that’s as extreme as his later films. That’s why the action is still strong and fun in this film. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s chemistry is what makes it memorable as their banter is hilarious and the action’s the icing on the cake. Mike’s confidence works throughout and Marcus’ insecurity is a good balance.

Though, I don’t like the mistaken identity bit here as Julie would only like to tell Mike what she’s seen, and Marcus has to pretend to be Mike so they can protect her. In order to keep protecting her, they have to keep this charade going where Marcus is Mike and Mike is Marcus. It’s a bit that grows tired quickly. The villains also aren’t amazing here, but Smith and Lawrence are so funny it’s enjoyable despite its flaws. Joe Pantoliano as the angry Captain Howard is also great.

Score: 70/100

Bad Boys 2
Will Smith in Bad Boy II. (IMDb)

Bad Boys 2. Directed by: Michael Bay. Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Gabrielle Union. Runtime: 2h 27 min. Released: July 18, 2003.

The first Bad Boys was Michael Bay finding his style, but this film is Bay at his worst. In one scene where Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) investigate a Haitian gang’s house, they are on one side of the wall and the gang is on the other side. Bay shows us this in dizzying style as he takes the camera around the whole room at least six times.

Bay’s obnoxious style makes the film suffer. The story’s another drug bust tale as the Bad Boys investigate the flow of ecstasy in Miami from a Cuban drug cartel. The dynamic of the film is mixed up with the introduction of Marcus’ sister Syd (Gabriel Union), an undercover DEA agent investigating the cartel. She is also Mike’s latest thing, just don’t tell Marcus.

The chemistry’s still strong and the comedy stands out in the film. The villains are still weak, as Johnny Tapia (Jordi Mollà) leads this cartel. For some reason I remember Peter Stormare being the villain, but he’s just a secondary antagonist as Alexei, a Russian mobster who is selling Tapia’s ecstasy through his clubs.

The action is okay but Michael Bay gets in the way. The film’s entertaining but the flaws here – a weak story and too much Bay – makes this only a guilty pleasure. The biggest strike against this is its run-time, as it has zero business being 147 minutes.

That’s too long for this simple story and it’s bloated. If anything would have ended up on the cutting room floor, it would have been the comedy – like when Marcus observes rat’s mating rituals, Mike and Marcus cussing out Marcus’ daughter’s date, Reggie (Dennis Greene) or when Marcus is on ecstasy. If these scenes weren’t here, this would be completely awful.

Score: 60/100

After Earth (2013)

After EarthRelease Date: May 31, 2013

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Stars: Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Sophie Okonedo

Runtime: 100 min

I’ve only seen two of M. Night Shyamalan’s movies. The Sixth Sense is one of my favourite thrillers. The Happening is not. I’d like to see more of his movies; so I can witness a rise and fall of a famous figure, rather than just hear about one. That being said, I don’t hate the guy as much as many other people do. His new movie, After Earth, is certainly better than The Happening, but not a lot happens.

A crash landing leaves Kitai Raige and his legendary father Cypher stranded on Earth, 1,000 years after events forced humanity’s escape. With Cypher injured, Kitai must embark on a perilous journey to signal for help.

There’s one main plot point that doesn’t make a lick of sense. If humans haven’t been on earth for one thousand years; why do these creatures have a passionate hatred for humans? They cannot evolve to hate and kill humans if they haven’t even seen one during their lifespan. That’s really the only plot point that is truly bothersome and rather stupid. The plot isn’t intriguing in the slightest.

Will Smith’s Cypher sits on the sidelines with two broken legs while his little son (and real life son) goes on a journey fighting off CGI baddies like there’s no tomorrow. He’s a character who is trying to prove his courage, because something happened in the past that he feels is his fault; while he just sat on the sideline and didn’t do anything. Kitai is like Cypher’s little Mario, because he is telling him what to do – except, Kitai makes some decisions for himself that are rather idiotic. This would make Cypher frustrated, as well as the viewer. We’re essentially watching a character control another character, but the one being controlled is a disobedient little shit, who’s trying to be just like his old Pa.

The only part that intrigues me about this movie is the idea of fear; where there are some tips that could help out very anxious people. There’s this phenomena in the movie called ‘ghosting’, where if one has no fear, it hides them from certain creatures. Cypher is the first human to master this technique. There is some depth added to the character of Kitai, because he’s trying to shake cowardice off of himself. The cinematography is very beautiful and it’s a great movie to look at. The CGI is also quite good. There’s a main creature that may or may not be hiding somewhere on Earth; and the idea of whatever it could be is quite terrifying. The actual being? Not so much. It’s, essentially, a hideous CGI-thing that’s a hybrid of cooler creatures from better movies. It made me want to quote Jeff Bridges from that R.I.P.D. trailer, “I don’t know which eyes to shoot you between!”

For an M. Night Shyamalan movie, this is very, very straightforward. There are scenes of intensity and action sequences. They are pretty cool, but nothing memorable. When the action isn’t happening, the movie’s painfully boring. When the action is happening, it’s still pretty freaking boring. It’s the type of movie that makes you want to ask for a pillow and a blanket. This is a new phenomena that will not entertain; but act as the cure for insomnia. For a movie that is only 100 minutes, it feels like it’s over two hours.

The petite cast carries the movie fairly well. Sophie Okonedo is the mother who’s there for one scene. Zoë Kravitz is present throughout the movie; mainly in flashbacks. Birds and crazy apes and jaguars (oh my!) appear throughout. The fourteen-year old Jaden Smith carries the movie well on his shoulders, even if his Atlantic-esque, kind-of British accent is a dagger to my ear. It’s annoying as hell. Jaden Smith captures some good emotions, and he’s a solid little performer; but, if I were the casual moviegoer, he wouldn’t attract me to his movies on opening weekend. Maybe eventually, but I can’t imagine it right now. His character’s decisions are silly; and at some points when he is in mortal danger, I thoughts to myself, “If he dies, the movie will end… Yippee!”

Will Smith just sits back and looks bored and is in pain throughout the movie. When his son cracks a joke, he replies: “That is correct.” Apparently when one isn’t afraid, they also surrender all emotions. He’s really milking the military father approach, but the Fresh Prince is way too serious and dull here. It’s his story, and it isn’t so fresh. Since it’s his story; why the hell does he look so bored? His character falls asleep in some parts, and all I think at that moment is: “I’m with ya, Prince!”

In a nutshell: There’s a good central performance by little Jaden Smith. The cinematography’s beautiful, as is the the setting. It’s just a very basic, straightforward movie that doesn’t have any surprises hiding away. Oblivion isn’t excellent, but at least it’s interesting. This is so slowly paced and boring, that it should come with a warning that reads: This movie may cause extreme drowsiness.

40/100

Men in Black 3 (2012)

Men in Black 3

Men in Black 3

Release Date: May 25, 2012

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Stars: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin

Runtime: 106 min

Tagline: This summer, he’ll have to find the answers… in time.

Men in Black, talk about a series that has given us numerous aesthetically unpleasing creatures.

After Boris the Animal, the last of the extinct Boglodite species, escapes from a high-security prison on the moon, he causes much distress for Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent J (Will Smith). He goes back in time to eliminate the person who arrested him, and took his arm – Agent K. When Agent J learns of this, he goes back in time to stop Boris from killing K, in order to restore the timeline and history itself.

Within a few minutes, J starts to gain the trust of the Young K (Josh Brolin). They set out to track down Boris, the wickedly ugly alien who started this whole quagmire in the first place. They follow a series of clues, that eventually leads them to a Griffin, an innocent-looking creature that can see many different timelines that aren’t visible to the human eye. J learns that he is not only hiding some things from K, but that K is also hiding a few things from him. With this whole experience, they must learn to communicate and enhance their trust even more.

Oh, what a privilege this film is. For those lovers of the classic original, they will fully appreciate this, because we all get to see Agent J and Agent K’s relationship build all over again! It’s obvious that the younger K has no clue of any part of J’s life, because J is his future partner. Though, for J, it’s a whole different story. J may have gotten to be with K as a partner for fourteen years, but K never really opens up to him. He’s given a chance to try to get to know him, when he was at least fun. Boy, oh boy, is Josh Brolin’s imitation of Tommy Lee Jones ever fun! He hit that impersonation spot-on. He might as well be one of those comedians that could impersonate just about anyone.

In terms of memorable sequences and a memorable story, this is a little better than the original. Also, this certainly obliterates the Men in Black 2. It’s so fine, that most fans will just totally dismiss the first sequel as a fart in the wind (or, they’ll just dismiss it as if Will Smith just used his neuralizer on them). This is a great instalment to the series. It gives those sci-fi alien fans of the 1997 classic a trip to nostalgia-land, while it gives an awesome taste of alien comedy and action to the new generation. Oh yeah, and they just had to put in 3D. Damn money grabbers. Regardless, this is a series that has delivered us* both comedy and a superb load of action.

* no, not from evil – well, I guess from evil aliens! 

For anyone who has not seen the original or its sequel, never fear – you’ll be able to follow this with ease. This is a stand-alone sequel. Though, it might be a smart idea to watch the other two. The emotional scenes in this feature won’t be nearly as effective for those newcomers to this magnificent series (with the exclusion of the second, but no one needs to remember you, you little wayward ass). Sure, you may get a little emotional, but there is no way you’ll be as sad as a series veteran. You are only beginning to know Agent J and Agent K. And the majority of the film, one’s the future guy and the other is the past man. But those who have seen every film in the series, they have taken a three-film journey with these characters – and they are much more emotionally invested with them than you are.

Josh Brolin impersonates Lee Jones so well, if you weren’t looking at the screen, you might get into a heated battle with someone saying “That is so Tommy Lee Jones speaking!” vs “That is Josh Brolin!” Also, the chemistry between Brolin and Smith is so fine, you may just swear they’ve been doing the films together all along.

Men in Black 3 owns a good story and some awesome action sequences. It also owns an overly comical villain, but that is probably his purpose. Someone could easily get emotionally invested into the characters of J and K, to a point where they feel like real people. Well, if one can accept the unreal premise of them being professional alien “police”. It’s an entertaining sequel that, essentially, offers a good time and a nice nostalgic trip. It’s nothing bigger than that, but it certainly isn’t anything less.

80/100