In 1995, another Buddy cop action comedy starring Martin Lawrence and Will Smith made its way into theaters, Bad Boys. Following Miami-Dade detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, the two police officers must track down the $100 million worth of heroin that was stolen from their precinct. While the film didn’t receive high marks like Rush Hour or Beverly Hills Cop, the action/comedy made double their production cost and the films ultimately spawned two more movies. Bad Boys II came out nearly ten years later and the return of Mike Lowrey and Marcus Brunett couldn’t save the film from getting an abysmal 23% on rotten tomatoes. Still, the audience score is at a high 78% and the sequel amassed nearly $279 million worldwide. It would take nearly two decades for Martin Lawrence and Will Smith to reunite for Bad Boys For Life in 2020; however, the third installment was a critical darling and became the highest-grossing film of 2020. A reported fourth installment is on the way, let’s dive deeper into the past three films and examine the Bad Boys series from best to worst. Let’s get started with the best film in the trilogy:
Bad Boys For Life
After nearly a decade, the series returns with the best installment in the trilogy. Of course, it’s great to see Martin Lawrence and Will Smith reunite onscreen. While the Bad Boys series isn’t the greatest in terms of action/buddy films, the chemistry between the two leads is off the charts good. Luckily, the script is able to match the strength of the talented actors and the narrative story of the film is a very compelling one. The personal connection between Mike Lowrey and the antagonist added some emotional depth to the story arc and the entire cast pulls their weight. The surprising character development of both Marcus and Lowrey help strengthen both men while never devaluing the core traits of their personalities. The surprising amount of depth within the story is what ultimately makes Bad Boys For Life the best version thus far. This is the first film that felt unpredictable, but in a good way that never undermines the story or characters. The shocking death of Captain Howard is the biggest tear-jerker of the entire trilogy. Overall, a fun, compelling, thrill ride from beginning to end.
The film that started it all. As previously stated, the chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence is fantastic, and the duo bounces off well against Tea Leoni’s Julie Mott. Seeing Marcus pretending to be Mike Lowrey provides several hilarious moments, though the action also compliments the film as well. Michael Bay manages to pull off the tricky balance of comedy and drama more often than not. Joe Pantoliano‘s Captain Howard and Theresa Randle’s Theresa Brunett bounce of Lawrence and Smith chemistry pretty well.
Unfortunately, the action does override the narrative (even though the set pieces are top-notch) and the villain lacks any true substance or depth beyond drug lord. The lack of character development is very noticeable too. While action films don’t necessarily involve strong character development, movies like Die Hard or The Terminator are amazing not just because of the incredible action, but also the journey that helps the characters grow. The film does have its emotional moments (namely Maxie Logan’s death) and the overall story is solid. A good popcorn flick that does its job well for the most part.
Bad Boys II
Bad Boys II is the very definition of a mindless action film. Basically, a Michael Bay film at its finest. There’s a joy to be had with the second installment, but the overload of action, crass humor, and rat sex doesn’t necessarily equate to a strong story. The problem with the film is the lack of substance that comes with the pedestrian story. Smith and Lawrence shoot and blow up bodies without any real consequence and the crass humor felt forced and unnecessary.
Gabrielle Union’s Syd Brunett is mainly there to be a damsel in distress. There aren’t many layers given to her character so when she’s kidnapped, the response is a big “who cares” because of the lack of development. Jordi Molla’s Johnny Tapia doesn’t fair any better. He feels more like a comedic foil than the big bad guy and his flat character doesn’t particularly stand out from other drug lord villains. Besides the bloated run time and unnecessary violence, fun can be had with Bad Boys II and the set pieces are impressive. Just don’t go into this action film expecting more than drugs, explosions, car chases, and violence.