News

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
#1
Adjusted Score: 89.387%
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 Bad Boys Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are back together for one last ride in... [More]

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

cancelled game show 21st Century Fox Rocky harry potter blaxploitation zombies Spring TV cats CMT Turner spain Creative Arts Emmys WGN worst transformers news DC streaming service Television Academy elevated horror SundanceTV Teen Elton John jamie lee curtis Acorn TV Paramount sitcom cancelled TV series cartoon psycho History Mindy Kaling IFC Films Universal Sundance Now Song of Ice and Fire comic Dark Horse Comics Academy Awards Comics on TV renewed TV shows MSNBC Endgame Chilling Adventures of Sabrina TCA Awards social media Mary Tyler Moore Polls and Games joker SDCC Cannes The CW casting remakes scorecard romantic comedy FXX historical drama cops Marvel E3 crime thriller Infographic toy story Television Critics Association ghosts BAFTA Syfy YouTube Red true crime IFC hollywood YA Tarantino talk show CBS CBS All Access Martial Arts LGBTQ indie adaptation Shondaland 2016 A&E superhero spider-man Crackle all-time natural history space Brie Larson HBO Max TV Women's History Month thriller Sony Pictures Set visit NBC ITV Trivia documentaries Toys National Geographic festival Captain marvel green book strong female leads Calendar Pixar El Rey Trailer Cartoon Network GLAAD richard e. Grant 24 frames worst movies PaleyFest Super Bowl Sundance TV rotten movies we love Amazon Prime Superheroes die hard 2019 award winner DGA Netflix canceled TV shows Drama Pop Election Emmy Nominations OneApp Watching Series Marvel Television Video Games Kids & Family police drama laika A24 Pet Sematary Stephen King science fiction Spike sag awards spanish language CW Seed TV renewals comedies Country Lionsgate free movies fast and furious GoT Showtime psychological thriller crossover Winners Baby Yoda TNT stop motion dark Comedy Pirates Marathons hist 007 dogs breaking bad WarnerMedia Disney+ Disney Plus TruTV 2020 Warner Bros. 2018 screenings RT History cancelled TV shows Mystery TCA 2017 Classic Film TCM children's TV Masterpiece Cosplay Crunchyroll singing competition sequels nfl robots Hear Us Out Horror name the review romance concert Disney streaming service venice mission: impossible canceled Extras Fantasy San Diego Comic-Con Lifetime Christmas movies Action Ellie Kemper tv talk parents boxoffice justice league Awards Tour christmas movies series dceu First Look based on movie Rock dramedy YouTube biography Columbia Pictures child's play Photos Britbox Amazon Studios Fox News Freeform Sundance TLC Emmys football Awards unscripted supernatural Countdown Turner Classic Movies Amazon VICE Valentine's Day Tumblr television spy thriller TIFF Oscars comiccon Apple Logo theme song Arrowverse teaser rotten Avengers reboot Grammys DC Comics President travel Disney Nominations DC Universe TBS politics Spectrum Originals Pride Month disaster Box Office scary movies Apple TV Plus obituary Nat Geo FX independent satire GIFs Heroines Black Mirror Tubi serial killer First Reviews BBC America Pop TV latino war FX on Hulu Premiere Dates classics Shudder The Arrangement anime X-Men Paramount Network NYCC Winter TV Musical BBC Ovation blockbuster Animation festivals Year in Review Mary Poppins Returns versus Best and Worst universal monsters composers anthology Opinion diversity movies Peacock Disney Channel Fall TV CNN chucky sequel revenge Epix Holiday BET Awards The Walking Dead Starz Apple TV+ toronto cinemax comics Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt American Society of Cinematographers animated ratings docudrama Star Trek 2015 cooking south america OWN halloween zero dark thirty twilight adventure Quiz VOD BBC One Red Carpet slashers batman Thanksgiving Film Festival Binge Guide Food Network DirecTV Christmas Western quibi cars 72 Emmy Awards sports cults films SXSW crime drama indiana jones Lifetime MTV emmy awards Adult Swim streaming Sci-Fi AMC ABC Family vampires foreign RT21 Mudbound Bravo period drama ABC Film Anna Paquin Sneak Peek Family stoner Character Guide Podcast Amazon Prime Video Rocketman doctor who Trophy Talk HBO Go 4/20 nbcuniversal werewolf Reality Competition facebook Holidays PlayStation binge Hallmark Biopics VH1 political drama Comic Book zombie See It Skip It kids Musicals USA Network Comedy Central Netflix Christmas movies Star Wars Summer 2017 Vudu LGBT Discovery Channel The Witch directors 45 ESPN New York Comic Con medical drama nature spinoff Mary poppins franchise book Superheroe finale best miniseries TCA USA BET Funimation crime Reality Nickelodeon Walt Disney Pictures a nightmare on elm street cancelled television TCA Winter 2020 Writers Guild of America aliens Certified Fresh Ghostbusters 71st Emmy Awards witnail Disney Plus YouTube Premium Travel Channel Chernobyl critics APB The Purge asian-american Hallmark Christmas movies E! documentary dragons 20th Century Fox video on demand movie stand-up comedy Marvel Studios criterion golden globes Rom-Com Tomatazos Esquire MCU HBO what to watch Interview Schedule Hulu reviews dc game of thrones Music hispanic PBS FOX mutant mockumentary screen actors guild TV Land discovery Black History Month Lucasfilm video technology