Not that anyone ever took these films seriously, but after “Hot Fuzz” and “Team America”, it seemed to me that the secret was out that these movies are sort of a parody of real cop movies. Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider did long surveillance in seedy conditions, ate and drank crappy food in cramped cars and mostly the car chases were collision courses in old cars. Cops drew their guns but were careful about firing, and if they weren’t the ending was downbeat rather than celebratory. The early Michael Bay films took action to extremes, mixed the improbable with some humor and amped up the violence. It was a formula for success twenty years ago. Apparently, it still works in spite of the passage of time and the mocking of tropes that has gone on since the last time Will Smith and Martin Lawrence saddled up to sing and shoot.
I saw both of the previous films once each. I enjoyed them at the time but I have almost no recall of plot or other characters. The movies are strictly disposable entertainment. Nothing wrong with that, but if I’m going to put a Michael Bay film on repeatedly, it’s going to be “The Rock”. I did not have high expectations for the film but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it while I was in the theater. Bay does not direct [Although he does make an appearance], the directing team of Bilal Fallah and Adil El Arbi have the reins and they ride this pony for all it’s worth. It does not have the pacing of a Bay film, but everything else is there, glamour, explosions, over the top violence and shiny images and people. It’s like the 80s never died and “Miami Vice” became the biggest influence on movie making since “Jaws”.
Before he put on the fat suit and dressed as a transvestite, Martin Lawrence was a pretty reliable comic actor in action films and urban based comedies. This movie reminds us of why he was a star for most of the 90s. Maybe he has worked more sparingly in the last few years because the material did not fit him, but for this film it does. Will Smith is still the first name above the title but Lawrence is the acting hero in this movie. The comedy is not slapstick but based on a couple of premises. The usual trope of retirement is used to gain some sympathy. His character is also a new Grandpa. It is the second premise that I appreciated more though. His character Marcus has emotional regrets about the violence he has inflicted on the world and he is trying to make good on a deal with God to be a better man. Of course by the end that will fly out the window, but until it does it gives Lawrence plenty of opportunities to riff on his characters self doubts and the more conservative person he has become as a father/grandfather figure.
Will Smith plays Will Smith. He is still cock of the walk confident and handsome. Yet he is also getting older and some acknowledgement of that was called for. The turn in the third act seems a little close to his film from last year but I won’t say too much. The plot does try to introduce new blood into the storyline and you can see the blueprint being laid down for future episodes of the series. It’s probably a good idea that he follows the lead of Tom Cruise, make a franchise film in your comfort zone every couple of years, and people will not notice when the mediocre films flop as much.
The action is insane at times, including a climax in a burning hotel that features a helicopter explosion inside of an abandoned building. The motorcycle chase can’t stand up to the Mission Impossible standards that have set the bar recently, but there are some good moments and a lot of gunplay to go with it. I don’t think this edition of the buddy cop franchise is necessarily better than the previous two, but since it is recent, I can remember a bit more of what happened. Give me a couple of years and it will fade too. Then maybe I can watch all of them again before the inevitable “Bad Boys 4” gets unleashed.