A kinder, gentler (to a degree) Bad Boys

I've only walked out of two movies in my life – Michael Bay's Bad Boys and Bad Boys II. So, upon taking a seat to see the latest adventure featuring the two-man wrecking crew Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, I acclimated myself, made sure I knew were the nearest exit was and was ready to quickly flee if need be.

Surprisingly, not only did I make it through this overlong, 124-minute exercise in urban destruction but actually found myself chuckling a couple times and enjoying some of the impressive action work on display. No, my sense of taste hasn't devolved over the years, rather screenwriters Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan introduce a sense of humanity to the story as our heroes Lowrey and Burnett have been taken down a notch from superhuman cops to men who have lost a step or two. This is a smart approach as it gives the viewer an emotional access point that was sorely missing in the series' first two entries and makes for some genuinely human moments amidst the cliched carnage.

Seemingly, the partnership of Lowrey and Burnett (Will Smith and Martin Lawrence) has come to an end as the latter, having become a grandfather, has decided to hang up his gun and shield in order to settle down to spend time with his family. However, all of this is put on hold when he sees Lowrey gunned down and tends to his broken friend, nursing him back to health.

Needless to say, once he's up and about, wounded cop seeks revenge on his assailant and when Burnett refuses to help him, a rift develops between the two men (Psst...it doesn't last). Wisely, Bremner, Craig and Carnahan introduce a roster of likable new characters they can build future franchise installments around (yes, Bad Boys 4 has been announced), chief among them Rita (Paola Nunez), an old flame of Lowrey's that heads a small task force of millennial forensic experts who go out of their way to make the veteran cop feel like a dinosaur at every turn. Equally important is Lowrey's would-be assassin Armando (Jacob Scipio) who has a big, big secret that will have a huge impact on all concerned.

Directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah actually know how to hold a shot long enough in an action sequence so the viewer can understand what's happening. They bring a flair to the mandatory set pieces that make them a bit more interesting than the standard fare, particularly during a second act motorcycle chase and the film's climax. Of course, the movie is lengthy but doesn't reach the point of tedium that so many of today's action epics do.

There's a third act plot twist that's so desperate and ridiculous that you just have to sit back and appreciate its audacity and see how it plays out (At that point, in for a penny, in for a pound). And while this and other elements resemble the telenovelas Marcus has gotten hooked on, Smith and Lawrence are able to ground the film in ways I didn't think possible in this franchise. When the two old friends sit back and reflect on their current place in the world, there's a humility in the characters that makes them relatable in ways they never have been before. In giving them feet of clay and taking a page from the Fast and Furious franchise, this kinder, gentler (to a degree) Bad Boys has found a way to give the franchise new life as the focus is now on family, be it biological or adopted. As a result, once Bad Boys 4 rumbles into theaters, I won't be looking for the nearest exit.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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