Seventeen years have passed, and the world has changed. Miami’s elite squad AMMO represents a new era of police work that threatens the old-school approach of Detectives Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey. Marcus wants to retire and Mike resists, but when he gets shot by mysterious biker Armando, the legend of Bulletproof Mike is destroyed.
Bad Boys for Life carries more emotional weight than Michael Bay’s Bad Boys and Bad Boys II, confronting mortality, aging, and settling down. Despite the seriousness of its themes, filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah created a sequel as fun, funny, and bombastic as its predecessors. The car chases, too, are key sequences in the film’s storytelling.
For the plot of Bad Boys for Life, Adil and Bilall drew inspiration from one of Marcus’s new interests: telenovelas. They even cast telenovela stars Paola Núñez as Rita, head of AMMO and Mike’s love interest, and Kate del Castillo as sympathetic villain Isabel Aretas (“La Bruja”), the mother of Armando Aretas (Jacob Scipio). Mother and son are intent on killing Mike, and as the film descends into melodrama, it goes full soap opera, revealing shocking secrets about their past. Adil and Bilall inject Michael Bay’s love of excess into the film’s emotion, leaving their mark on the franchise by preserving the action and the camaraderie in Bay’s films while expanding on a beloved formula.
Though times and circumstances have evolved, Bad Boys for Life opens with a chase that lets us know Mike and Marcus’s relationship remains unchanged. The pair squabble like an old married couple, and Marcus, who ruins Mike’s car in every film, threatens to vomit in his 911. After that disaster is averted, he instead dents the Porsche’s door after opening it against a fire hydrant. Compared to previous installments in the series, only their destination feels different: we soon find that Mike and Marcus were speeding toward a hospital to meet Marcus’s first grandchild.
The true star of the movie’s chase is Mike’s 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S, a nod to the black Porsche 911 Turbo that Mike once drove down a runway in pursuit of an AC Cobra in the original Bad Boys. This sequence feels more like a commercial than a car chase, but it is a pleasure to hear Mike and Marcus banter again, and to see how the new Porsche moves. “Even the Batmobile doesn’t hold the road like this,” Mike brags as he sells us the car, showing off what it can do as he drifts to avoid a tour bus and drives in reverse to evade the cops.
Porsche went all out for the scene and rented an airport to reenact the chase so the would be audio just right. Both the runway and the car were outfitted with mics to pick up on the sounds of the car. The filmmakers recorded the car’s doors opening and closing, the snap of seat belts, windows rolling up and down; they even added sand to the tarmac to replicate Mike’s car driving along Miami beach. When you hear the car in the film, you’re truly listening to the Porsche and its 443-hp flat-six engine.
The 911 isn’t the film’s only impressive ride. Armando hunts Mike on a lethal-looking 2017 Yamaha MT-09 SP. AMMO’s shrimp van (“the Crawdaddy”) is another Easter egg for Bad Boys fans that homages the Coachman Tile Inc. surveillance truck from Bad Boys II. The car shop that AMMO and Mike stake out (and then turn into a chaotic shootout) displays plenty of ‘70s classic cars, including but not limited to a 1977 Cadillac Eldorado, a 1973 Chevrolet Caprice Classic, 1978 Chevrolet Impala, a 1977 Buick Electra 225. And then there’s Marcus’s family car: a tacky gold Nissan Quest that meets a grim fate.
Mike’s and Marcus’s driving styles tell us plenty about them. In the Nissan Quest, Marcus embarrasses Mike by driving slower than the speed limit, even letting a Prius pass them. Thankfully, Mike moves a little faster, and he’s in the driver’s seat for the big chase that brings together most of the film’s major players and pits Mike, Marcus, and AMMO against Armando and one of his employees, Nicky Jam’s Zway-Lo.
Mike commandeers a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT while in pursuit of Zway-Lo, who flees on a Harley-Davidson FXDR 114. This first leg of the chase culminates in a showdown with pyrotechnics and gunfire between Mike, Marcus, a masked motorcycle gang, and AMMO. To escape, Mike hijacks another ride, this time a Harley-Davidson FXFB Fat Bob with a custom sidecar where Marcus finds a pitbull, a grenade, and a machine gun. (Marcus observes that “it’s like an angry white man’s basement in here.”) Marcus picks up the grenade, uncertain, and Mike pulls the pin without hesitation—a concise metaphor for them and their friendship. Marcus throws it at the bikers following closely behind them, and one of them throws it right back. Mike and Marcus are beautifully haloed by the explosion behind them.
Marcus made a vow to God that there’d be “no more violence” in order to keep Mike safe, and that promise is promptly, explosively broken—for our viewing benefit. “Violence is what we do,” Mike argues, convincing Marcus that God is cool with it, that they’re David and Goliath, and the machine gun in the sidecar is Marcus’s slingshot. Marcus is reassured. (“Bad Boys of the Bible, baby.”) The chase then gives us an indelible image: Marcus firing a machine gun from the sidecar, with Mike on the motorcycle shooting his gun in the opposite direction. In slow motion.
Things get real when Armando arrives to rescue Zway-Lo in a helicopter with a rocket launcher, which he aims directly at Mike and Marcus. Mike saves Marcus by separating the sidecar from his Harley, then rescues him again when he nudges the sidecar away from a flatbed truck that would’ve otherwise creamed him. Mike hurtles on to the truck instead while Marcus lands in yellow traffic barrels. As Mike dangles from a helicopter and faces off with Armando at the chase’s end, Marcus saves Mike’s life in turn. But before he foils Armando’s attempt to kill Mike, he says the words, “Hasta el fuego.” It’s the film’s “Rosebud” moment, and it visibly rattles Mike, though the phrase’s meaning is (briefly) left mysterious.
There are some digital effects and green screen involved in this sequence, but most of the stunts are done practically and in camera. The crew built a trailer to drive Mike and Marcus on the motorcycle, which they used during the grenade stunt, and built another trailer so they could free drive. A separation rig was made for when the motorcycle disengages from the sidecar. Though the “loose” sidecar seems out of control, skidding and throwing sparks, a stunt guy could drive it like a go-kart, safely ping-ponging off cars. The explosions are real, most of the driving is real, even the helicopter is real (although they didn’t suspend precious resource Will Smith from it, and opted instead to use stunt double Cory Dunson). Adil and Bilall worked hard to do their action for real, staying true to the ‘90s films that inspired them, from Lethal Weapon to Beverly Hills Cop and, of course, the original Bad Boys.
It was Adil and Bilall’s love for the first two Bad Boys films that led them to ask franchise creator Michael Bay to do a cameo as a tribute. He agreed. In a meta moment, Michael Bay appears in a classic Michael Bay shot: a low-angle 360. On set, Bay’s only advice for the directors was “don’t **** up my baby.” Adil and Bilall did not disappoint, though, honoring the spirit of Bayhem by showcasing beautiful cars and motorcycles in the most bonkers way imaginable. The film’s centerpiece chase is a blast: goofy and over-the-top, with a spotlight on our heroes and their trademark ribbing. It’s flawless spectacle that perfectly expresses Mike Lowrey, Marcus Burnett, and their decades-long friendship.