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Buddy cop movies are a fascinating movie medley – a comedic and thrilling blend of the good cop-bad cop trope, the straight man-wise guy dynamic and a testosterone overdose of the explosive variety.
The Bad Boys franchise is perhaps one of the most memorable and also most-parodied of this genre, up there with Rush Hour, Lethal Weapon and Tango & Cash.
When the 1995 Bad Boys classic came out, both Will Smith and Martin Lawrence were at the apex of their comedy careers.
Despite a disastrous monologue on Saturday Night Live, Martin was enjoying the success of his eponymous TV show Martin and film House Party. Having come off a seven year stint as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Bad Boys became the first of many proofs of Will’s ‘Midas’ touch.
The movie didn’t need to be new or good. As long as Will was in it with a trusty sidekick and Michael Bay making things unnecessarily explode, a blockbuster was in the bag.
When the 2003 sequel happened, Will was still the golden boy of Hollywood while Martin’s career, despite being financially successful, was starting to show its age. Tragically, Michael was only getting started on his multi-billion dollar block-combusting adventure.
And now, after a 17-year gap during which Martin occasionally blew up the box office but mostly raised his family, he returns to Bad Boys for Life to reprise the role of Marcus Burnett, a cop who has spent the last two decades... occasionally blowing things up but mostly raising his family. It’s uncanny how original Hollywood can be.
Will reprises the role of Mike Lowry, the playboy every male cop must imagine he’ll become upon receiving his badge. But this time, for added character, there’s lots more brooding. Because he’s matured, but continues to act like the freshest prince of buddy-cop movies.
The storyline is... wait, no one really cares. There’s a big cartel baddie, lots of action and explosions that almost make one forget that Will is 51 and gratuitous shot-for-shot remakes of scenes from the original movie.
This time, for added flavour, there are four new kids on the block in the form of the Advanced Miami Metro Operations (AMMO) team. Get it? Because Mike and Marcus are the guns and... never mind. Rita (Paola Núñez), Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens), Dom (Alexander Ludwig) and Rafe (Charles Melton) add little to the movie beyond their stock aggravated leader, explosive badass, bro nerd and rebel foil characters.
But no one is going to see anyone but Will and Martin. And these two, helped by the fiery direction of Michael, prove why they continue to demand some of the highest salaries in Hollywood.
Even as an old and retiring cop, Martin is entertaining and holds the screen well. Will, with his billion dollar charisma, manages to pull off the character of Will as a cop perfectly. And that’s what everyone really cares about.
But here’s a fun game to play when you watch this movie with friends – everyone take a blank 5x5 grid, write down your favourite tropes in each of the squares and as you watch the movie, play some boiler plate bingo. The one who loses has to spend 2020 watching Michael Bay’s movies.
Do we care that this is thoroughly unoriginal and unnecessary in action comedy canon? Do we care that critically all three movies are on the dark side of the average? Do we care that without the explosions, brooding and clichés, this movie would be a 10-second foot race between Will and Martin? No, no and definitely no.
But for consistency sake, I might as well give the movie its two-popcorn rating, knowing that it will still blow up the box office.