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Bad Boys for Life First Reviews: Funny, Action-Packed, and Surprisingly Worth the Wait

Critics say the 17-years-in-the-making sequel plays up the strengths of the previous films and adds a healthy dose of genuine heart, and the whole thing actually works.

by | January 15, 2020 | Comments

Bad Boys, bad movies, right? Not so fast. While the 1995 original and its 2003 sequel, both Michael Bay action flicks, have low Tomatometer scores, the new third installment is apparently pretty good. Bad Boys for Life, which is not helmed by Bay but reunites stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, is receiving rave reviews for a number of reasons, including its injection of heart into a 25-year-old franchise with a long-delayed second sequel. Smith and Lawrence’s chemistry, some thrilling spectacle, and a lot of laughs don’t hurt, either. In fact, this third helping is supposedly so good, you’ll want fourths.

Here’s what critics are saying about Bad Boys for Life:


Isn’t this just a cash grab?

Bad Boys for Life is a welcome surprise that shows a series willing to change with the times.
– Matt Goldberg, Collider

This second sequel sincerely asks viewers to care about the inner lives of these two emotionally stunted cops… [and] it somehow pulls it off? (I’m as shocked as you are.)
– Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence bring their A game, never letting us feel like they’re going through the motions.
– Owen Gleiberman, Variety


How does it compare to the first two movies?

The anticipated sequel… basically celebrates everything that worked about the first two Bad Boys movies.
Sean O’Connell, CinemaBlend

It may not be as raw as Bad Boys, but it’s more human. It may not be as operatic as Bad Boys II, but, well, neither was “The Ring Cycle.”
David Ehrlich, IndieWire

This new installment… is decisively the best of the trio; it actually has a heart, or what passes for one in a gigantic, slam-bang industrial enterprise like this.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

Bad Boys for Life lands somewhere in the middle, retaining the ridiculous action of Bad Boys II while discarding the go-for-broke mentality in favor of a story about the importance of family.
Matt Goldberg, Collider

It’s a lot less egregious than Bad Boys II. (Low bar.)
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune


Columbia Pictures

(Photo by Columbia Pictures)

Do you need to have seen the first two movies?

If you’ve never seen a Bad Boys film, don’t worry… This chapter uses a few brief references to Bad Boys II, [but] that fact is inconsequential to the enjoyment of the film.
Robert Daniels, 812filmreviews

I want to make it known now that I didn’t see the first two films in the franchise.  The two previous films do not appear to be very necessary outside of character development.
Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies


How is the script?

Right from the first scene, the script… is about more than clever excuses to get these guys back in cool sports cars shooting at bad guys.
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

Comparisons to Mexican telenovellas are adequate, so much so that the movie can’t resist having a character literally scream it.
Evan Dossey, Midwest Film Journal

Bad Boys for Life careens into sheer stupidity in the final act, with a twist that would be unforgivable if not for the opportunity it affords Lawrence to deliver some of the film’s best jokes.
Brent Hankins, The Lamplight Review

Bad Boys for Life does feel a bit long and there is a late out-of-nowhere plot twist that feels a little far-fetched even for these movies.
Brian Truitt, USA Today


Columbia Pictures

(Photo by Columbia Pictures)

Do Smith and Lawrence still have chemistry?

It’s impressive and enjoyable to behold how easily Smith and Lawrence slide back into these characters and actually make them more accessible and fun to be around than before.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

It’s always been about their friendship, and their love for one another. In every scene, every joke, and every insult, you feel that warmth shine through with the intensity of a lens flare.
Robert Daniels, 812filmreviews

These actors just click… The two actors with comedic backgrounds maintain a razor-sharp rapport that helps Bad Boys For Life sizzle in between its explosive action sequences.
Sean O’Connell, CinemaBlend

One would think that chemistry might have diminished somewhat in the 17 years since the duo last teamed up, but if anything, it feels as though it’s gotten stronger.
Brent Hankins, The Lamplight Review

If Bob Hope and Bing Crosby had a grenade launcher, it would end up a little like this.
Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian


Are there any notable additions to the cast?

Paola Núñez [is] a commanding presence from the first time she enters the frame, and that electric new blood trickles down to the rest of her team.
David Ehrlich, IndieWire

Of the newcomers, only Núñez and [Alexander] Ludwig have any pizzazz.
Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian


Do we miss Michael Bay?

Purists will probably balk at the notion of a Bad Boys without Bay — until they see it.
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah successfully mimic his style (sometimes doing shot-for-shot tributes) while also showing off their own chops.
Sean O’Connell, CinemaBlend

The signature Bayhem is so prominent during the third act that one could assume he was directing the film!
Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

Michael Bay is not missed.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

What’s lost in the exchange is that Bay often felt like the third lead in these films… his affinity for Miami-via-Hot Wheels is notably absent here, and is frankly missed.
Conor O’Donnell, The Film Stage


Columbia Pictures

(Photo by Columbia Pictures)

How is the action?

It feels more inspired by Asian action cinema than Bay’s oeuvre, but the stylistic shift is subtle enough that it’s in keeping with the old while still kicking ass like something new.
Leigh Monson, Birth.Movies.Death

In the rare instances when the action does erupt into genuine spectacle, the directors make sure to prioritize function over flashiness in a way that prevents your eyes from glazing over.
David Ehrlich, IndieWire

Fallah and El Arbi’s biggest skill? Shooting car chases… Bad Boys For Life has some of the coolest-looking car scenes in recent memory.
Sean O’Connell, CinemaBlend

It’s… gleefully, almost cartoonishly violent — piling up bodies as casually as Call of Duty, and letting the camera linger while they bleed.
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

Green screen adjacent motorcycle chases and digitally rendered flames can’t help but feel a bit tame after watching Bay demolish a Florida estate in a recklessly wanton firefight.
Conor O’Donnell, The Film Stage

Are there any good action sequences? No, not really.
Evan Dossey, Midwest Film Journal


Is it funny?

Bad Boys for Life is not only intense, it’s hilarious.
Robert Daniels, 812filmreviews

There are a lot of “we are old” jokes, but I found a lot of this endearing.
Mike Ryan, Uproxx

It’s funny as hell.
Leigh Monson, Birth.Movies.Death


Columbia Pictures

(Photo by Columbia Pictures)

Are there any major criticisms?

The only point where Bad Boys for Life starts to go off the rails is when it starts to follow Fast & Furious too closely in hopes for setting up future installments.
Matt Goldberg, Collider

The tonal mixture just doesn’t quite work, resulting in the worst thing a Bad Boys film can be: generic.
Evan Dossey, Midwest Film Journal

I just wish the writers had avoided the layers of stereotypes they placed on our main Big Bad, Isabel Aretas. We’re talking stereotypes in stereo.
Sherin Nicole, idobi.com


Are we going to want more Bad Boys after this?

I have never for one second cared whether they made a third film. Now that it’s here, I find myself genuinely shocked to announce I kind of want a fourth.
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

For the first time, yes, I hope some more Bad Boys come for me.
Mike Ryan, Uproxx

There’s a scene that teases a potential continuation of the story on screen here. And after sitting through this one, it was more of a promise than a threat.
Sean O’Connell, CinemaBlend

Overall, Bad Boys for Life is probably a wash, but it ends so well that I now find myself not entirely opposed to the idea of a fourth Bad Boys entry.
Bilge Ebiri, Vulture

Smith and Lawrence are good enough to make these movies work for a very long time.
Sherin Nicole, idobi.com


Bad Boys for Life opens everywhere on January 17.

#1
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Adjusted Score: 94517%
Critics Consensus: Loaded up with action and a double helping of leading-man charisma, Bad Boys for Life reinvigorates this long-dormant franchise by playing squarely to its strengths.
Synopsis: The wife and son of a Mexican drug lord embark on a vengeful quest to kill all those involved in... [More]

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