Has Will Smith stolen Martin Scorsese’s de-aging machine? Possibly. Because similar to Al Pacino in “The Irishman,” in “Bad Boys for Life” Smith doesn’t look like he’s aged a day since the last sequel hit theaters 17 years ago. And, for the first time in a while, neither has his appeal.
Smith, who used to be a box office sure thing, has churned out a lot of duds in recent years: “Concussion,” “Gemini Man” and “Suicide Squad,” just to name a few. And it seemed like the Willennium had come to an inauspicious end.
But the third “Bad Boys” film, in which he stars alongside Martin Lawrence, is a return to form for the actor. His combat, comedy and even his tailored sexiness is back to full power. The prince is, once again, fresh.
The plot isn’t really, but who cares? Think of “Bad Boys for Life” as a Pennsylvania highway store: full of explosives and fun.
Mike (Smith) and Marcus (Lawrence) are out celebrating their decades with the Miami PD when Mike is shot in the chest by a masked motorcyclist. He miraculously recovers, but becomes revenge-obsessed, collaborating with a new tech-based force called AMMO (Advanced Miami Metro Operations) to track down his would-be assassin. He practically levels the city in the process.
Early on in the film, you wonder if nearly two decades after the last “Bad Boys,” audiences can still laugh at destructive, vigilante cops. Answer: Yes! Lawrence says “Awwww s–t!” at least 50 times in this film, and I was still giggling at No. 47. In one scene, while the duo is on an airplane, Smith turns to Lawrence and says, “We fly together, we die together,” terrifying every passenger around them.
Another ongoing gag is that, while Mike craves getting back in the action, all Marcus wants is to luxuriate in retirement, driving around in a Nissan Quest and listening to meditation tapes. So, Lawrence turns him into a badass Homer Simpson. After a sizable break from moviemaking, the funnyman returned last year as the only good part of “The Beach Bum,” and he’s hysterical here.
The one weak link in the film — directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah instead of Michael Bay who helmed the first two — is the young AMMO crew. Featuring popular actors such as Vanessa Hudgens and Charles Melton, they’re wedged in to provide a next generation foil for the Bad Boys. But they’re mostly hokey and you never believe they’re capable of both hacking the dark web and firing a rocket-launcher.
The original “Bad Boys” was released in 1995, three years before Smith dropped his rap single “Miami.” Remember that? Many long-gestating sequels seem perfunctory and purposeless — I’m looking at you, “Terminator: Dark Fate” — hoping to recapture a magic that belonged to a specific time and place. Not this one.