MOVIE BUFF-ET: Smith, Lawrence still have it in ‘Bad Boys for Life’

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys for Life / Sony

The older I get the more tedious the action-movie genre gets.

It might be the law of diminishing returns or just poor filmmaking or possibly my tastes have changed since the action-flick hey days of the 1980s and ’90s?

Whatever it is, fewer and fewer action movies hold my attention anymore. That’s why I wasn’t all that excited about going to see “Bad Boys For Life,” the third film in the franchise that began back in 1995 with the original film directed by Michael Bay and produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer.

It would be easy to argue that the original, which hit at the height of both stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s stardom, is one of the best action films of 1990s. The 2003 sequel with all the same principals may have come a bit late, but it wasn’t bad either.

However, “Bad Boys for Life” debuts nearly 25 years after the first film and while Smith remained in great shape and Lawrence in so-so shape, which the new film uses to fine and funny effect, my expectations were pretty low entering the theater.

Lawrence hasn’t had a hit movie in forever, and while Smith maintains the charm and swag that made him Hollywood’s most bankable star for a time, his choices in recent years have left much to be desired.

With that said, on the whole I really enjoyed “Bad Boys for Life.”

Like many action, adventure and super-hero movies, the film gets pretty wobbly in the third act as the true motives of the bad guys and a totally unbelievable twist are revealed, but overall directors Adli El Arbi and Bilal Fallah, who were just teenagers when the original came out, deliver a fun, action-packed movie that makes the most of the buddy-cop magic that Smith and Lawrence first brought to the screen back in 1995.

Two and a half decades after first partnering together Det. Mike Lowrey (Smith) has become somewhat of a legendary figure with the Miami Police, while Det. Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) has settled into being a family man first and a cop second.

With the arrival of a grand baby and his daughter’s impending marriage to a decorated marine, Marcus already has one foot in retirement when a series of assignations begin to ring bells with Mike. The two agree for one more go-around to take down the stone-cold killer and the powers behind him which have a personal vendetta against Mike dating back to before he first partnered with Marcus.

The chemistry between Smith and Lawrence is still there, allowing Smith to be cool and Lawrence to be exasperatedly funny throughout the film. Their on-screen relationship is so appealing, it allows the movie to get away with some incredibly silly and unrealistic stuff in the plot that might be unforgivable in a movie with less talented and engaging stars.

As for the action, Arbi and Fallah deliver time after time over the course of the movie’s two-hour and four-minute running time with thrilling human and car chases, a couple of exciting helicopter stunts, plenty of guns a blazing, and a stunning fire-drenched climax in a Mexican drug cartel mansion. The movie is edited to perfection with an entertaining pace throughout.

Even when the ridiculous plot twist is introduced, Smith and Lawrence almost make it work. Here Lawrence shines, cracking a series of hilarious jokes at his too-cool-for-school partner that kept me chuckling through the insanity of the the last third of the picture.

“Bad Boys for Life” isn’t the most sophisticated film that you’ll find in theaters, but if you like action films or are a fan of the franchise, you’ll likely feel you got your money’s worth out of this surprisingly pleasing movie.

(R) 2 hr. 4 min.
Grade: B

New In Local Movie Theaters

  • Bad Boys For Life(R) 2 hr. 4 min. (watch trailer)
    Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Rogers Towne, Malco Pinnacle, Bentonville Skylight
  • Dolittle(PG) 1 hr. 41 min. (watch trailer)
    Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Rogers Towne, Malco Pinnacle, Bentonville Skylight

Classic Corner – An American in Paris

Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in An American in Paris / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Musicals are an odd sort of film. For some they are too unrealistic and silly to bother with, but to those who love them, nothing can whisk away your worries and troubles on a flight of fantasy like a good Hollywood musical.

The Malco Razorback Cinema will show one of the best of the genre at 1 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday as the 1951 Academy Award winner for Best Picture “An American in Paris” returns for a limited engagement.

In all, the film directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron as star-crossed lovers won five other Oscars for Best Cinematography, Best Set Design, Best Costume Design, Best Score, and Best Screenplay. Minnelli was also nominated for Best Director and Adrienne Fazan for Best Editing.

The win for Best Screenplay might be a bit dubious considering the slender plot involving a straight-out-of “Casablanca” love triangle between Kelly, Caron, and Georges Guetary, but then again you don’t really go to see a musical for the plot.

The film features Kelly as American World War II veteran Jerry, who is attempting to make it as a fine artist in Paris. Guetary is Henri, his upstairs neighbor who helped support the lovely dancer Lise, played by Caron, during the war. Henri is, of course, in love with her, but while Lise likes and appreciates all Henri has done for him, she doesn’t love him.

Jerry is smitten by Lise at first sight, but she’s not so sure at first. Jerry’s charm grows on her, and she falls for him despite feeling indebted to Henri, who unexpectedly proposes to her.

Telling any more would be too much, but the three-way relationship sets up some of the best musical numbers ever captured on film, featuring such George Gershwin classics as “Embraceable You,” “I Got Rhythm, “ ‘S Wonderful” among many others.

Kelly and Caron were made to dance together, and their scenes are electric. The 17-minute ballet sequence at the climax of the film that pays homage to French artists Rousseau, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Utrillo, and Dufy is a grand spectacle in and of itself, and is likely what locked up the movie’s Best Picture Oscar.

There are other musicals that I personally prefer, but the combination of Gershwin, Kelly, Caron, and Minelli is undeniably magnifique.