After turning in the first two greatly beloved, operatically souped-up action opuses in the “Bad Boys” franchise, everyone’s favorite gearhead maximalist auteur Michael Bay is no longer behind the camera for the third, “Bad Boys for Life” (though he is in front of it, briefly). Not to worry though, as Belgian filmmaking duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, clearly devoted students of Bay’s style, craft a wonderful facsimile of his greatest hits, from his swirling low-angle dolly shots to capturing the glorious clash of sunset and neon that screams Miami. From the very first sequence of a screeching Porsche burning up the streets of South Beach, El Arbi and Fallah prove that as directors, they have the horsepower to match Bay, if not the grace yet. Nevertheless, their first major American feature outing is a loving and skillful tribute to pure ’90s action cinema, and it’s a hoot for fans of the franchise.
That’s largely because Martin Lawrence is back, baby! After popping up in a small but memorable role in Harmony Korine’s “The Beach Bum” last year, Lawrence returns to full-blown movie stardom and walks away with “Bad Boys for Life,” reminding audiences what a crucial element he is to the unique mix of action and comedy that makes the “Bad Boys” work. The yin and yang, push and pull of the soft goofball Marcus (Lawrence) and his partner, the hardened Mike (Will Smith), is thrown into even starker relief when Marcus becomes a grandfather. His desire to retire clashes with Mike’s quest for vengeance after being shot by a mysterious motorcyclist, testing the whole “for life” part of the pals’ mantra. Forget boyhood; Marcus just wants to see them become a few “good men.”