The worst thing about Bad Kids for Life is that it is not declared with a chart-topping rap collab in between Nelly, P. Diddy, and Murphy Lee. The era for Bad Young Boys seemed to be.
Bad Boys for Life catches up with its heroes Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) at what ought to be the end of their careers. Lowrey, nevertheless, still desires to be a Bad Kid: taking down criminals, preferably like a badass, and never ever settling down romantically.
While plainly developed as a quote to build a Fast & Furious style “family” around Lowrey and Burnett (and bring in more youthful stars like Vanessa Hudgens and Riverdale‘s Charles Melton), the conceit works. Headed up by Rita (Paola Núñez), AMMO is the main method by which the movie homes in on its obvious-but-effective conceit: Lowrey and Burnett are old.
Bad Boys For Life is like a less self-aware Hot Fuzz, a movie about how much of a discomfort in the ass it is to be cops who work with wannabe action heroes. Lowrey in particular is hotheaded in a way that would be troubling if he were played by anybody other than Will Smith: bloodthirsty, careless, and self-centered to the point where he’s practically entirely unlikable. Smith’s extreme and undeniable appeal is the only factor Lowrey works at all, and even then it’s barely enough since Will Smith, like Mike Lowrey, isn’t the firebrand he utilized to be.
Its villains, the mother-son group of Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo) and Armando Armas (Jacob Scipio) are terrific however surprisingly absent; they hardly appear in the movie’s second act. None of this ruins the film, it simply might’ve been the distinction in between good and fantastic.
Bad Boys for Life is admirable in its absence of aspiration. It’s here to serve action and comedy in roughly proportionate quantities, with huge set pieces that are just thrilling enough to hook you and jokes that are just amusing enough for you to hope no one dies.
If, reading all this, you believe that Bad Young Boys for Life might be gaining from low expectations, you ‘d be right! January has long been a disposing ground for bad movies, and no one has been clamoring for a new Bad Young Boys movie (although if you have, there are plenty of callbacks simply for you). Bad Boys for Life is doing something I deeply appreciate, something that only the Fast & Furious movies attempt, in spite of their remarkable success: making an action film for brown folks.
I like having a big movie every year that I can enjoy with a strong hip-hop/ urbana soundtrack, where the fades are tight, crisp white Nikes are standard issue, and guys who look like my uncle chew surroundings together with reggaeton stars (or, in the case of Nicky Jam, reggaeton stars who look like my uncle). Bad Kids for Life is that movie, and if you’ve got a requirement for one, it’ll do the job.