Way back in 1995, Martin Lawrence was wrapping up season 3 of his successful Fox sitcom, Will Smith hadn’t yet thought about getting jiggy wit anything, and the only credits on Michael Bay’s resume were a few music videos and the famous Got Milk commercial about Aaron Burr. (Yup, that was Michael Bay). But producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson saw enough in that trio to put them together with a story by Midnight Run scribe George Gallo, and *poof* Bad Boys was born.

It’s been an entire generation since we were introduced to detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, but twenty-five years later, the guys are back in business, picking up right where they left off and without missing a step.

Set 17 years after the forgettable 2003 sequel, Bad Boys for Life finds Miami’s two hottest detectives in the twilight of their careers, at least if Marcus (Lawrence) has anything to say about it. Now a grandfather, he’s content to just ride off into the sunset and watch his telenovelas all afternoon. As is generally the case, though, it only takes that one last job to get him back in the game, and before long he and Mike (Smith) return to the mean streets of Miami, guns blazing.

The bad guy this go-round is the mysterious and ruthless Isabel (Kate del Castillo), a former kingpin who escapes from jail and, with the help of her son Armando (Jacob Scipio), aims to hunt down everyone responsible for putting her away, including the judge, prosecutor, and Mike, who was on the case at the time of her arrest.

Bouncing back and forth between Miami and Mexico City, Bad Boys for Life fits perfectly into the canon, even without Bay’s involvement (though he does appear briefly in a cameo as a wedding DJ). Instead, directing duo Adil and Bilall took over the reins, and they waste no time in blowing the lid off the place. Though not as uber-Baygasmic as either of the first two installments (or maybe because it’s not), Bad Boys for Life is a super-fun buddy-cop flick along the lines of the 21 Jump Street reboots or 2013’s The Heat. Instead of being subjected to a flurry of slo-mo street-level dollies and ultra-saturated cinematography, we actually get a decent story and multi-dimensional characters. Go figure.

The highlights of the film (and there are plenty) come with the exquisite chemistry between Lawrence and Smith. These guys definitely still got it, and it’s clear there’s nowhere they’d rather be than riffing off each other while chasing baddies. Add to that the return of the neurotic Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) and a few other nifty returning faces and cameos, and Bad Boys for Life delivers across the board.

Production has already started on the fourth film in the franchise, so we won’t be saying goodbye to Mike and Marcus anytime soon, and that’s a very good thing indeed. They boys are definitely back in town, right where they belong, and they’re as good as ever. It may have taken waaay too long to get back, but Bad Boys for Life is a clear testament to the idea of it being (much) better late than never.


4/5 stars