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Fri07102020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Twenty-five years have passed since detectives Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) first suited up for Michael Bay in Bad Boys, and 17 years have passed since they joined him again for Bad Boys II.

Since the first time Bay assaulted our eyes and ears with his patented brand of cinematic garbage, I’ve grown to almost enjoy said garbage. I hated Bad Boys, but I sort of liked the outrageous Bad Boys II. Bay tends to amuse me now—unless he’s doing a Transformers movie, in which case I check out. I attribute my suddenly liking some Bay movies to brain decay due to aging, a lack of iron and a general loss of spirituality. So, I guess the bad news is that Bay passed on directing Bad Boys for Life, the third installment in the franchise. I would’ve liked to see Bay try to top the almost-self-parodying craziness that was Bad Boys II, but, alas, he was making Netflix movies with Ryan Reynolds.

The good news is that the directing team of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah step up and do a sufficient job of continuing the mayhem—easily topping Bay’s lame original and providing a chapter that is as good, and sometimes better, than chapter two.

Burnett is eyeing retirement, while Lowrey is dealing with the psychological and physical ramifications of aging. (But he’s dyeing his goatee, so it’s all good.) A crazy witch-lady gangster named Isabel (Kate del Castillo) has escaped from prison and has put out a hit list for her son, Armando (Jacob Scipio), to work his way through. Isabel has vengeance in mind—and the targets have connections to Lowrey.

Lowrey himself is also on that list, and he takes a couple of bullets early in the film. We aren’t giving too much away by telling you that Lowrey doesn’t die … because there’s no movie if Lowrey dies. So, after some healing time, Lowrey and a very reluctant Burnett are back in action, wise-cracking and shooting people up in slow motion.

Some familiar faces return, including Theresa Randle as Burnett’s long-suffering wife. She’s good in a subplot that has Burnett becoming a granddad while getting more time at home during his attempted retirement … which doesn’t go well. For starters, bad things happen with a ceiling-fan repair. Joe Pantoliano makes a welcome return as Pepto Bismol-swigging Capt. Howard—still a great riff on those screaming captains from the Beverly Hills Cop movies.

All the mayhem comes to an appropriately visceral and bloody conclusion, replete with big plot twists and the Smith-Lawrence duo kicking ass. When the two are allowed to riff and fly, it’s fun. There’s a big production going on around them, but it never overwhelms their star power. They are bloodier, nastier versions of Abbott and Costello.

As Bay learned with Bad Boys II, Smith and Lawrence are better in this sort of thing when everything is ridiculously over the top. The new directors know their way around an action scene, and their comic timing is strong, so there are equal levels of laughs and explosions in this installment. The movie isn’t the big joke that Bad Boys II was—Burnett’s electronics-store sex-problem confession remains the series highlight—but it is unabashedly nuts. It qualifies as a competent and promising reboot.

Please don’t take these words as high praise. I’m saying that this is relatively tasty cinematic junk food. I’m saying that it’s good enough that I’m OK with the idea of another chapter. (Bad Boys 4 is already in play.) I’m saying that there seems to be a few more Bad Boys stories to tell, and the beat goes on without Bay.

Smith and Lawrence have escaped the Men in Black and Big Momma’s House franchises, and can concentrate their combined energies on this now. This is not a bad thing.

Bad Boys for Life is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Elvis fans know that he had an identical twin brother, Jesse, delivered stillborn about a half-hour before Elvis’ birth. Ever since, people have asked: What would’ve happened if Jesse had lived?

The Identical, one of those “faith-based” movies like God’s Not Dead, Heaven Is for Real and Jesus Loved Jellybeans, is a take on the surviving-Elvis-twin premise, replacing Elvis and Jesse Presley with the fictional Ryan Wade and Drexel Hemsley, both played by real-life Elvis impersonator Blake Rayne.

Getting the rights to Elvis’ music would cost more than three new Cadillacs, so the producers of this dreck wrote some crap Elvis copycat music and a shameless script that stars Elvis without really starring Elvis. I wish Lisa Marie Presley would sue the makers of this movie for obviously stealing her dad’s likeness, but then she would have to actually see this movie, and I wouldn’t wish that fate on anyone.

Somehow, this aberration attracted talented actors like Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Seth Green and Joe Pantoliano. However, it’s bad. It’s so bad that one viewing could cause septic shock due to cinematic shit entering your bloodstream through the eyes and ears.

The movie starts with Rayne as Drexel, the brother who has grown up to be rich, sitting in his limo and seeing a vision of people picking cotton in a Depression-era field. It then flashes back to the Depression, when a couple decided to give up one of their twin newborn boys, because they couldn’t afford two little brats.

That boy, Ryan, is raised by a preacher and his wife (Liotta and Judd) with a big Jesus influence and a push toward making him a pastor. The film is peppered with scenes of Liotta delivering fire-and-brimstone sermons—sermons that get unintentionally funnier and funnier as his character ages under prosthetic makeup. Young Ryan loves Jesus, but, of course, he’s got rock ’n’ roll in his bones, evidenced by his sweet dance moves when he visits an evil honky-tonk bar. He dabbles in music, writing Elvis-like songs with his hip drummer friend (Green, a long way from Robot Chicken).

Ryan has no knowledge of his famous brother due to some weird pact Liotta’s character made with his birth father to not mention Elvis Drexel until both birth parents were dead. So, while Drexel lives in a house called Dreamland and makes bad surf movies, Ryan is joining the Army and singing in honky-tonk bars.

It’s worth noting that Rayne is 40, but this movie asks him to be in his teens for a good hunk of its running time. Rayne does look and sound like Elvis, but he’s missing some of that Presley bravado. Actually, he’s missing all of that Presley bravado. This guy has no business being on a movie screen playing a character who is supposed to parallel Elvis Presley. His act should be reserved for state fairs and cheap casinos.

The whole movie is bizarre beyond words, made even weirder by the fact this is a movie the producers want church groups to attend. It’s a PG film, but the only thing that makes the movie PG is a scene in which Ryan refuses beer at a bar where “reefer” is being smoked.

I watched this movie in complete disbelief—totally aghast, mouth agape, and laughing out loud at its wretchedness—while sitting in a completely empty movie theater. The music, with such wannabe hits as “Boogie Woogie Rock and Roll” and “Sunrise Surfin’” is inexcusably awful, and the “Jesus Loves You” undertones are the equivalent of somebody walking up and smashing you in the face with a Bible and then shoving its pages down your throat while you are lying on the ground, unconscious and bleeding.

This was supposed to be the movie that made Blake Rayne a household name. If it succeeds in that, from now on, when my dog vomits on the household carpet, I will refer to it as “Blake Rayne-ing.”

The Identical is now playing at the Ultrastar Mary Pickford Stadium 14 (36850 Pickfair St., Cathedral City; 760-328-7100); the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 844-462-7342); and the Century Theatres at the River (71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-836-1940).

Published in Reviews