It’s somewhere between desperate and guilty pleasure

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Director Michael Bay made his film debut with Bad Boys 25 years ago and, with this mid-sized but exhilarating and pleasant sleeper The rock, looked like a Tony Scott clone to watch out for. Instead, with the release of Armageddon, Pearl Harborand four rances Transformers abominations, Bay solidified his reputation as America’s worst filmmaker. Gargantuan, irresponsible, lavish, screaming, incoherently edited, stupidly worded, overactive films are cinematic torture chambers to me. Each has aged as well as a season of “The Jerry Springer Show”. It gives me great pleasure to report that Bay did not write, produce or direct the third installment, “Bad Boys For Life,” which is, no coincidence, a better film for its absence behind the camera. If that sounds mean, try to sit down The Transformers: Age of Extinction again. Go on, hard, I challenge you.

For the first time since 2003, we catch up with flashy, unmarried, reckless detective Mike Lowrey (played by Will Smith) and his goofy, domestic partner, Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), spinning and always blowing stuff up as a way to fight against crime. A recent spate of Miami murders prompts the team to take a case “one more time …” because, you know … they’re “Bad Boys For Life.”

It swings somewhere between a hopelessly skillfully directed film and a guilty pleasure that never fully amounts to the youthful grand vision of its pursuit. Perhaps Bay’s absence as Director’s chair (just typing that makes me smile) has resulted in not only a reduction in the budget, but also necessary adjustments.

On the one hand, it’s a movie that wants to exist in a different era (namely, the nihilistic late 90s), as it’s sadistically violent and madly in love with guns. Like last year Rambo: last blood, this late revival of the franchise wants you to understand just how much of a psychotic killer who loves murder is its main character (Smith) (Smith’s charisma barely keeps that under the surface). On the other hand, the synonym of bitch is only pronounced once, unlike the vile, incredibly bloated. Bad boys II, which opens with the word and uses it about 357 times.

The management team for the first time Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah exude confidence, provide the expected brilliant visual (this is a beautifully shot film), are ready to organize big car chases with real stunts and keep that more gritty than anything Fast or Furious. Yet the decisive battle, however successful, has too many clearly bogus CGIs (a recent problem Terminator also sharing).

While it’s still a total bromance, with the ladies kept to the side (the talented and always underutilized Theresa Randle returns to the thankless role of Martin’s bored wife), it’s a little less misogynistic than before and rampant homophobia has disappeared. Now our heroes aren’t expressing gay panic while also expressing love for each other, but it’s still pretty sexist and incredibly silly, just like it used to be. So much for progress.

What i really like Bad boys for life is that he has a pair of big villains, played very well by Jacob Scipio and Kate del Castio. After 40 minutes of coasting, the second act really picks up, with the action sequences and one-liners (no matter how understated) registering as strongly as you’d expect. The story builds a real plot, making it a strange companion on the nose of the recent Gemini man. Plus, bringing back the exciting theme music from Mark Mancina was wise; however, other than the title song of Inner Circle, songs from the soundtrack weren’t recorded (Diana King’s “Shy Guy” from the first movie remains a high school favorite for me).

Finally, Michael Bay may not be in the director’s chair, but he’s literally in the movie. Playing a Wedding MC, his cameo is terrible, but I have to give it to him: The most gratuitous form of Bay-hem in this movie is Bay himself.

Two and a half stars

Rated R / 124 Min.

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