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Peter T Chattaway

Bad Boys for Life

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Link to our thread on Bad Boys II (2003).

Sony announced today that there will be new installments of this franchise on February 17, 2017 and July 3, 2019. No word yet as to whether Michael Bay will direct them like he did the first two (or, for that matter, whether they will both star Will Smith and Martin Lawrence).


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I did not expect the third film in the famously trashy Bad Boys series to feature so much talk of God and such an earnest engagement with trying to follow God's commands, but Bad Boys For Life does just that. Sure, it treats prayer largely as a bargain with God and is still hyper violent, but it also features a scene where a character literally has to turn the other cheek after the main characters had earlier discussed the morality of doing just that. Apparently a lot of this is inspired by Martin Lawrence's real-life faith journey, and yes, it's still a superficial action film and no Scorsese or Schrader joint. But I couldn't help but get a kick out of its engagement with faith and found a lot of truth in Blake I. Collier's blurb on Letterboxd: "It had more theological depth than all of the Kendrick Bros. films combined. And I'm not even being remotely snarky or ironic."

Anyone else see this?


"Cinema is an improvement on life." - Francois Truffaut

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Ahem.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I watched all three movies in the space of three days. It was the first time I had ever seen the original 1995 film, and the first time I had seen the second film since it came out in 2003. I live-Facebooked the first two films as I was watching them and then wrote up some notes on the third film, also at Facebook. Here is what I wrote:

- - -

All right, time to watch Bad Boys (1995) for the first time ever.

The pre-credits sequence is kind of an amazing time capsule. The film is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer *and Don Simpson* -- he was still alive then. (He died in January 1996.) Martin Lawrence gets top billing over Will Smith! (Both of them had TV shows at the time; this was Smith's first big-screen lead role and Lawrence's second, following 1991's Talkin' Dirty after Dark.) Martin Lawrence, in one of his very first lines of dialogue, mocks a criminal for being fat, which is kind of ironic in light of Lawrence's size nowadays. Lawrence complains that Smith's car doesn't have cupholders, which reminds me of an article I read in the early 1990s about the importance of cupholders to Generation X. And then the credits are filled with names like Tea Leoni and Tcheky Karyo that I haven't seen much of since the 1990s or early 2000s.

A bad guy uses the word "bitch" -- a staple in the dialogue of Michael Bay's films -- before the first person, a woman, is murdered. The murder victim falls through a glass table (*that* old cliche!).

The scenes in which Martin Lawrence has to pretend to be Will Smith when he takes Tea Leoni into custody kind of underscore the fact that Will Smith isn't even *in* the movie during those scenes, which, in turn, underscores the fact that Lawrence got top billing over Smith in this movie. Forty minutes in, this does appear to be Lawrence's movie more than Smith's.

Tea Leoni sees lots of pictures of Will Smith in what she *thinks* is Martin Lawrence's apartment and assumes that Lawrence is gay. Lawrence denies this, nervously. Leoni says don't worry, it's "okay to be a homosexual". This was in 1995, the same year The Celluloid Closet came out; it was also less than two years after Philadelphia and less than three years after The Crying Game (to cite two early-1990s milestones in mainstream film's changing approach to this topic). Side note: Lawrence says Smith's name is "Marcus Burnett", which is very similar to reality-show and "faith-based" producer Mark Burnett.

Will Smith throws barrels of ether out the back of a speeding truck during a car chase. In Bad Boys II it'll be entire cars and dead bodies, if memory serves. (Michael Bay then had giant objects of some sort fall off a moving vehicle during a chase scene in The Island. It's a motif of his.)

Lots of double entendres when Martin Lawrence phones home and hears the dialogue between his wife and Will Smith (who are actually looking at a photo album, not having sex).

Another Bible-movie connection! A store clerk is played by Shaun Toub, who was born in Iran to a Persian Jewish family and played Mary's father Joachim in 2006's The Nativity Story. He also played Yinsen in 2008's Iron Man and 2013's Iron Man 3.

- - -

And now, Bad Boys II.

This film came out in 2003, eight years after the original film. Michael Bay had gone on to direct The Rock, Armageddon and Pearl Harbor, while Will Smith had gone on to star in Independence Day, two Men in Black films and Ali (the last of which got him his first Oscar nomination), and Martin Lawrence had done... Big Momma's House, Black Knight and National Security.

Amazingly, Martin Lawrence's name still appears before Will Smith's in the opening credits. And the film is still "A Don Simpson / Jerry Bruckheimer Production" even though Simpson had been dead for over seven years by this point.

In one of the first scenes, a drug lord calls his molls "F---ing bitches" because they accidentally shoot one of his statues. It didn't take long for Bay to put *that* word in his movie again, did it. (The b-word, I mean.)

The first film didn't do a whole lot with race but the second film begins with a KKK rally that Will Smith and Martin Lawrence have infiltrated; the first time we see them, it is after they throw off their Klan robes.

Was that Michael Shannon as one of the Klansmen!? (Checks.) Why yes it was! Huh.

Big special-effects shot of a bullet flying in slow motion from Will Smith's gun, through some props, through Martin Lawrence's butt-cheek and into one of the Klansmen. Big action scene in general. Bigger budget all around.

Martin Lawrence dismisses one of his fellow cops with a comment about "Ricky Martin"; the fellow cop says "You always gotta go racial, man!"

Will Smith talks about Martin Lawrence going to "some group thing": "A bunch of men hugging and kissing, that's some cult shit." This, just a few scenes after some cops teased Smith about taking a close look at Lawrence's wounded bum and maybe "giving it a little kiss".

Will Smith gives Martin Lawrence a "donut" -- a cushion that he picked up at the maternity store.

Gabrielle Union as an undercover cop who also happens to be Martin Lawrence's sister *and* Will Smith's secret lover brings a very different feminine energy to this film than the first film had.

*Lots* of machine-gun fire and *lots* of cars colliding in the street during this first-act chase scene. ... And now comes the part where car after car falls off a car carrier while they're driving over a bridge. *Lots* of vehicular damage. A huge spectacle of consumption. ... How long *is* this bridge, anyway?

The audio-video store scene. 4x3 *and* 16x9 TVs for sale! A video camera broadcasts a conversation between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence that everyone mistakes for a discussion regarding a sexual encounter between them. So there is a series of double entendres here to parallel the ones in the first film. A woman shouts "You two motherf---ers need Jesus!" at Smith and Lawrence as they leave the store and *then* tells her children to cover their ears. This scene manages to play on racial, sexual and religious stereotypes all at once.

Hey, the hacker who was working for the guys while he was in prison in the first movie is now out of prison and still working for them in *this* movie.

Martin Lawrence sees two rats having sex and says "They f--- just like us!" A few minutes later, one of the bad guys gives a speech to one of the other bad guys that ends with him saying "without [such-and-such] we are no more than beasts". If I thought this film merited such attention, I'd explore the thematic contrast between these two scenes.

Martin Lawrence objects to Will Smith's relationship with Gabrielle Union (Lawrence's sister) because of Smith's reputation as a ladies' man, which was established in the first film, but we don't actually see Smith behave all that promiscuously in *this* film. The fact that Smith has closed the commitment gap somewhat, as it were, between himself and Lawrence in this film fits with the fact that the second film is more evenly balanced between its two stars.

Ah, this scene: the one with the dead bodies falling out of the truck and being run over by Smith & Lawrence's car.

The first movie had a photo album with pictures of a young Martin Lawrence sporting a giant Afro. The second movie has a school yearbook with a picture of Will Smith sporting a giant set of braces.

Martin Lawrence checks that the 15-year-old boy dating his daughter is still a virgin. Then Will Smith, who's been threatening the kid by pointing a gun in his face etc., says: "You ever made love to a man? ... Do you *want* to?"

The morgue scene. More dead bodies, at least one nude and jiggly.

Martin Lawrence (on ecstasy) to Will Smith: "This is not gay shit, this is man shit, and you're a beautiful man."

An artist has painted an image of the Last Supper in which the Cuban drug lord is the model for Jesus -- but the Cuban drug lord says it's "depressing" because the Last Supper was followed by the Crucifixion.

Seeking sanctuary at Guantanamo Bay! (This, in a film that mentioned 9/11 in one of its earliest scenes.)

At almost 147 minutes, this is easily the longest of the Bad Boys movies. The first one was 118 minutes, and the third one is apparently 123 minutes.

- - -

And now, Bad Boys for Life. I obviously couldn't type out my reactions as I was watching the movie in the theatre (the way I did while watching the first two movies at home), but I did scrawl some notes down, so here is my re-creation of my reactions. (SPOILERS, obviously.)

The opening credits once again list both Don Simpson (who died in 1996) and Jerry Bruckheimer as producers, but *this* time Will Smith gets top billing, instead of Martin Lawrence.

Will Smith compares his car to the Batmobile. Will Smith was actually *in* a movie with the Batmobile just a few years ago (said movie being 2016's Suicide Squad).

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence get out of the car, and they are shot from a low angle in a style that is very reminiscent of Michael Bay, even though this is the first movie in the trilogy that Bay did not direct. The moment is then undercut with humour when Lawrence bangs his door against a fire hydrant. Smith blames him for this, but Smith parked the car there, so...

Will Smith was driving his car very fast throughout the opening credits but it wasn't clear whether there was an actual *chase* going on -- we never saw any bad-guy cars -- and lo and behold, it turns out he was trying to get Martin Lawrence to the hospital to see his grandchild. Lawrence is a grandfather now! And the dad is Reggie, the kid who took Lawrence's daughter out on a date in Bad Boys II. (That movie came out in 2003, just a few months after the invasion of Iraq. Reggie is now a marine, in uniform. Bad Boys II mentioned 9/11 by name but I don't believe there are any references to current politics or geopolitics in this film -- which, come to think of it, is interesting, given that the bad guys are from Mexico and the heroes are black and a *lot* has been said about the current administration's attitude towards both communities. The closest we get may be the bit where Lawrence, in the car with Smith, looks out the window at some white people and says he and Smith are cops and they'll pull themselves over later.)

The widowed head of the Mexican cartel tells her son to kill a list of people, including Will Smith. This, combined with Smith's top billing, establishes that *this* movie is primarily about Smith (whereas the first movie was primarily about Lawrence and the second movie was more evenly balanced between the two).

Will Smith is gunned down on the sidewalk and rushed to the hospital. Martin Lawrence prays in the chapel and tells God he'll abandon violence if Smith survives. The Mexican cartel lady *also* prays, to Santa Muerte (Saint Death). This sets up a religious dynamic that plays throughout the entire film -- one that goes well beyond the joking references to the Last Supper in Bad Boys II, etc.

Martin Lawrence tells Will Smith, "You need to start thinking about your karma, man." So the religious impulses here are a tad syncretistic.

Martin Lawrence has retired from the police force and has Alexa in his home; a scene soon after this will introduce a drone; and a scene soon after that will reveal that Will Smith has re-named Lawrence "Quitter" in his smartphone's contact list (which made me laugh out loud). What will it be like to watch these three movies back-to-back in another 25 years or so, and to see the technological changes between movies. Smartphones didn't even *exist* when Bad Boys II came out in 2003 (the first iPhone was introduced in 2007). And the first Bad Boys (which features Tea Leoni using one of those brick-like cell phones or cordless phones) came out in April 1995, only seven months after I got my first e-mail account -- and I was one of the first people I knew to get one.

Will Smith says to Martin Lawrence, “Like the time I broke up with your sister?” That is the film’s only reference to the Gabrielle Union character from Bad Boys II. Does *she* know her brother is a grandfather now, which would make her a great-aunt?

Joe Pantoliano tells Will Smith a story about two Buddhists on horseback (another religious reference!). As he and Smith walk back to their cars, Pantoliano is shot -- and there is something about the way the scene is shot that I could tell something was about to happen a few seconds before it did happen, which I guess means the movie didn’t tip its hand *too* badly. But sigh, Pantoliano was one of the few characters to appear in all three movies, and now he’s gone.

The obligatory night club scene, but with none of the Playboy-esque crotch shots that Bay put in the other films (or at least in Bad Boys II).

Will Smith convinces Martin Lawrence to resume violence against the bad guys, despite Lawrence’s promise to God, by invoking the example of David and Goliath. “Bad boys of the Bible!” I wasn’t expecting this movie to remind me of Gary Cooper in 1941’s Sergeant York (he played a real-life pacifist who eventually found what he believed to be a biblical justification for shooting enemy soldiers) but there you go.

A car sitting on the back of a truck explodes and flips over onto the street. That’s about as close as this movie gets to the wanton vehicular damage in the car-carrier scene from Bad Boys II.

We learn that the police unit’s tech guy is super-muscular because he used to be a bouncer but then he renounced violence after a bad incident. So Martin Lawrence isn’t the *only* character who has tried to give up violence. (Yes, the tech guy ends up carrying a gun again, too. And then he talks, happily, about seeing a therapist. But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

Retcon alert! We learn that Will Smith is the *father* of the Mexican who has been trying to kill him. Smith even says that the Mexican cartel lady is the only person he has ever loved, and he says that she taught him how to be stylish, etc. She made him what he is, basically. So all that rich-trust-fund-kid stuff from the first two movies isn’t the *only* reason he has been so flashy all this time. This feels like the retconning we got about Smith’s other character in the third Men in Black film. The fact that Smith is fighting his own son is also reminiscent of Smith fighting his younger self in last year’s Gemini Man.

Martin Lawrence calls the Mexican cartel lady a “witch” repeatedly, because of her devotion to Santa Muerte. So, given Lawrence’s prayers to God and his rationalizing re: the Bible, this film is basically setting up a conflict between Judeo-Christianity and a kind of paganism, yes?

Will Smith tells his son, “I don’t want to fight.” Later, he borrows a line that Martin Lawrence got from one of his theistic self-help tapes and says he’s trying to “penetrate [his son’s] soul with my heart.” So this film is looking for a better, more spiritual note to end on that goes beyond the big explosive shoot-out -- though it certainly goes for the big explosive shoot-out, too.

The Mexican cartel lady falls several floors into the flaming wreckage of a helicopter. She falls into the flames of hell-icopter, you could say. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the filmmakers intended that pun.)

Somehow Will Smith’s son helps lift Martin Lawrence up with his right arm despite the fact that he was shot in his right pectoral muscle.

So now *these* movies get to have mid-credits tags, too -- and this one seems to be suggesting that Will Smith and his son are going to have adventures of their own, now that Martin Lawrence is retired…?

The end.

Edited to add: Unless I missed something, this film doesn't have any of the gay-panic humour of the first two films (and the second film in particular).


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Incidentally, re: that mid-credits tag: The studio announced shortly after this film opened that there will, in fact, be a Bad Boys 4. So I assume that tag is connected to that somehow.

How soon is that sequel going to come, though? The shortest gap between Bad Boys movies is the *eight years* between the first two films. (Another *seventeen years* passed before the third film came out.)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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On 2/8/2020 at 9:36 PM, Peter T Chattaway said:

Ahem.

I actually searched for that thread before making this one, but could not find it with the search function! Sorry.


"Cinema is an improvement on life." - Francois Truffaut

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Aren wrote:
: I actually searched for that thread before making this one, but could not find it with the search function! Sorry.

No worries. I found it by searching for "bad boys" (I was actually looking for the thread on the second film and had forgotten that we already had one on the third and fourth films!).


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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