By Leah Greenblatt
January 15, 2020 at 09:00 AM EST
Credit: Ben Rothstein/Columbia
  • Movie

Bad boys, bad boys, watcha gonna do when they come for you — and you want to run but you’re also pretty tired, and maybe your knees kind of hurt?

Twenty-five years after Will Smith and Martin Lawrence first put their buddy-cop routine onscreen, a third installment returns to find them facing down middle age, with varying degrees of grace. Martin’s Marcus can’t wait to retire and watch telenovelas in his bathrobe all day; even Smith, with his Gemini genes, isn’t immune: his perpetual playboy Mike has secretly started dyeing his goatee.

But, as franchises with nearly half a billion dollars in the bank tend to do, Miami’s finest have returned — this time trading in director Michael Bay, who helmed the 1995 original and its 2003 sequel, for the young Belgian duo Adil el Arbi and Bilall Fallah, who are likely far more affordable, and seem to be equally in love with explosions.

Luckily for them, a good portion of the plot involves blowing things up: buildings, helicopters, humans. Though the movie is always at its best when it lets the chemistry between its two costars breathe; when it doesn’t, it’s mostly interchangeable with any other fast, furious thriller that passes through the multiplex.

As the story opens, Marcus wants out, ready to live a life of leisure and grandbabies, and Mike doesn’t want to let him go; neither of them gets to choose their fate when a onetime Mexican cartel leader (Kate del Castillo) jailbreaks, and then enlists her homicidal son (Jacob Scipio) to help eliminate the people who put her there. Catching them both means accepting the help of Mike’s onetime paramour (Paola Nuñez) and a SWAT team of bright-eyed millennials that includes Vanessa Hudgens, Riverdale star Charles Melton, and Vikings’ Alexander Ludwig.

It’s all silly in that very Michael Bay way (he actually makes a small, winky cameo early on), and in some moments genuinely thrilling. It’s also gleefully, almost cartoonishly violent — piling up bodies as casually as Call of Duty, and letting the camera linger while they bleed.

Which is all expected; banter and bullets is the action-movie MO, and the duo at the center of it hardly seem to have to stretch to spread their bickering charm on thick, particularly in a great, absurdly comic scene on an airplane. By the shock-and-awe climax, though — when everything but the goatee pretty much goes up in flames — other things have worn thin.

At one point, a God-fearing Marcus even tries to lead his more hot-blooded partner to greener pastures: “We’ve been bad boys,” he pleads. “Maybe it’s time to be good men.” “Who wants to sing that song?” Mike retorts. And so instead, they go on singing the one we know. B–

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