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'Bad Boys for Life' review: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith still have that old-time chemistry

Martin Lawrence as Detective Marcus Burnett and Will

Martin Lawrence as Detective Marcus Burnett and Will Smith as Detective Mike Lowrey in Columbia Pictures' "Bad Boys for Life." Credit: Columbia Pictures/Ben Rothstein

PLOT Two Miami police detectives must stick together when one becomes a killer's target.

CAST Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Jacob Scipio

RATED R (graphic violence and language)

LENGTH 2:04

BOTTOM LINE Passable, at least by the standards of this so-so franchise.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence re-team for "one last ride" as they put it — repeatedly — in "Bad Boys for Life," the third and ostensibly final film in the buddy-cop franchise. It's been well over 25 years since the second installment, which means Smith and Lawrence, now in their 50s, will play old-school detectives in a newly technologized world. As the dependably stressed-out Captain Howard, played by the always welcome Joe Pantoliano, puts it: "Bad Boys ain't really boys anymore."

The original "Bad Boys" was a proud rip-off of "Lethal Weapon," the definitive buddy-cop movie from 1987 starring Mel Gibson as a womanizing daredevil and Danny Glover as a level-headed family man. Smith put a suave spin on the Gibson role as Mike Lowery, while Lawrence turned the Glover character into the slightly raunchier Marcus Burnett. With director Michael Bay (later of "Transformers") pumping blood and bullets into the mix — and lingering on the curvy cars and teeny bikinis of Miami—"Bad Boys" became exactly what it set out to be: A louder, cruder version of the movie that inspired it.

The sturdy formula still works, more or less, as does the chemistry between the two stars. Smith's Mike is getting older but refuses to slow down – he dyes his trademark goatee— while Lawrence's Marcus is mulling retirement. Things change, however, when a super-assassin named Armando (Jacob Scipio, a relative newcomer exuding his own bad-boy sex appeal) begins gunning for Mike. The case is commandeered by Mike's former flame Rita (Paola Nuñez) and her team of tech-savvy youngsters, but of course the old dogs have their own tricks (mostly violent ones).

Bay is out as director, replaced by a duo known as Adil & Bilall. Don't let their exotic Moroccan-Belgian background fool you: They're clearly devotees of American junk cinema and more than happy to employ the fast cuts, massive explosions, helicopter stunts and thumping hip-hop tracks that "Bad Boys for Life" requires. They even add a touch of horror: One villain, a Mexican cartel queen named Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo) is said to be a Santería witch. It's Lawrence who undercuts the overall ridiculousness by pointing it out at every turn. "Where they getting all these helicopters?" he wonders. Our thoughts exactly.

By the way, you don't believe that "one last ride" business, do you? If so, stick around for the mid-credits kicker of "Bad Boys for Life." These movies intend to stick around for your life, too.

FOUR MORE

It's flashy, splashy and a little bit trashy — it's Miami! The "Bad Boys" movies aren't the only ones to use the city as a backdrop; here are four other examples:

SCARFACE (1983) Before television's "Miami Vice" put the city on the cultural map, Brian De Palma used it as the setting for his modern gangster classic starring Al Pacino as the coked-up Tony Montana. Endlessly quotable, the movie also spawned a cottage industry in hip-hop streetwear.

MIAMI BLUES (1990) Alec Baldwin plays Fred Frenger, a sociopathic ex-con, in this very violent adaptation of Charles Willeford's novel. It's a dark gem that should appeal to connoisseurs of neo-noir.

MIAMI VICE (2006) Michael Mann directed the movie version of his hit television show with Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx as the leads. More style than substance — big surprise —but reasonably entertaining.

PAIN & GAIN (2013) The true story of three bodybuilding idiots — Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie — who turn to crime with disastrous results. Highly uneven, but Johnson is terrific as a man-child whose biceps are bigger than his brain.— RAFER GUZMAN

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