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Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS for Bad Boys For Life are ahead!
If you had serious doubts about Bad Boys For Life heading into this month, no one would have blamed you. January has a negative reputation for movies for a reason, and although not all movies that come out in January are bad, a lot of bad movies do come out in January. And if you’ve been paying attention over the last couple of years, long-awaited reboots and sequels have been extremely hit and miss.
Those factors did not exactly inspire a ton of faith in Bad Boys For Life, and a healthy degree of skepticism, if not outright pessimism, were understandable. However, in a wildly pleasant surprise, all those fears turned out to be for naught because the movie is actually good. As a reward for that quality, it’s succeeding at the box office.
Before the record-breaking weekend was even over, we learned that Bad Boys 4 is in the works. The threequel’s title served as a promise that the Bad Boys franchise will indeed be for life, or at least for one more entry. Now the discussion turns to what the next movie will be, and given the events of the third film, there’s a direction Bad Boys could go that would take it into The Fast and the Furious territory.
While that might be tempting, I’ve got to say, please don’t turn Bad Boys into the new Fast and Furious franchise.
The History Of The Two Franchises
The Fast and the Furious franchise started as a relatively small-scale crime drama in the vein of Point Break, but set in the street-racing world. Around the fourth and fifth entries, the franchise turned into something else entirely. Fast & Furious now exists as an action franchise on the largest scale. The focus on family and fast cars remains, but street racing has now been replaced by globetrotting heists and international espionage.
Like The Fast and the Furious, the Bad Boys franchise also has humble beginnings. In Michael Bay’s 1995 film, Detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett are Miami detectives trying to recover stolen drugs before their department is shut down. While the plot has varied over the subsequent films and the action has gotten bigger, the core elements of Bad Boys have remained the same.
Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett fight drugs and organized crime in Miami, often coloring outside the lines of the law while contending with bureaucracy and each other. The action is stylish and the laughs are hearty and frequent. However, that formula looks like it could get blown up following Bad Boys For Life.
The Potential New Direction And Fast & Furious Parallels
I might not be writing this article at all were it not for Bad Boys For Life’s mid-credits scene. At the end of the film, after it has been revealed that (SPOILER ALERT!) Jacob Scipio’s villainous Armando Armas is in fact Mike Lowrey’s son, Will Smith’s character goes to visit his progeny in prison.
Mike Lowrey offers his son a chance at redemption; some sort of deal to pay down his debt to society. Redeeming a character by getting them out of prison for a dangerous mission is a common trope in action movies, and we’ve seen similar stories in the Fast & Furious franchise. We’ve also seen former enemies becoming part of the family for the next adventure in Fast & Furious.
So the parallels are certainly there between the two franchises, and based on the ending of Bad Boys For Life, I think it’s possible that Bad Boys could take a quarter-mile turn straight into Fast & Furious territory with the fourth film.
I could be wrong, so we’ll have to see how things play out, but I definitely got the sense that this mission will unite, Mike, Marcus Armando and the AMMO squad and make Bad Boys 4 a full-tilt, large scale, globetrotting secret agent movie. I certainly get the potential appeal of that direction, but here’s why I don’t want it to happen.
The Franchise Works As It Is
The first and most obvious reason not to alter the Bad Boys franchise in favor of emulating the shenanigans of another successful franchise is that Bad Boys is working fine as it is. Sure, Bad Boys For Life is our first entry in 17 years, but it worked, succeeding both critically and financially. And it did that by utilizing the tried and true buddy cop formula of the previous films.
Part of the reason that Fast & Furious changed was because it had to. The franchise was spinning its wheels and there wasn’t much tread left on the tires of the original format. So amidst diminishing box office returns, the franchise brought back its principal characters and shifted into a heist series.
That sort of drastic change is simply not necessary for Bad Boys at the moment. We just got these characters back and there’s no need for this series to undergo such a massive retooling. That’s not to say that Bad Boys can’t change. Change is essential to a franchise’s continued growth and storytelling potential. But we’re already seeing incremental, natural change in Bad Boys For Life.
Bad Boys For Life evolved the franchise by acknowledging that Mike and Marcus are getting older, as well as brought in fresh new faces in the form of the AMMO squad. This new team provides a fun contrast to the established duo, but their introduction also feels like a natural progression and not an abrupt shift. Bad Boys For Life gives us something new, while maintaining the secret sauce that makes people love this series.
Bad Boys Is Special Because Of Its Smaller Scale
The core ingredient in that secret sauce is the buddy cop relationship between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s characters, and that is able to thrive because of the smaller scale of these films. The Bad Boys franchise is about detectives in Miami chasing down bad guys. It’s not about averting nuclear disaster, cyberterrorism, clandestine military organizations or genetically enhanced super soldiers.
That smaller scale allows Bad Boys to excel with comedy and character moments. Mike and Marcus might be hunting down big fish like drug kingpins, but in order to do that, they often have to apprehend and interrogate low-level street criminals. That leads to some hilarious moments, like that part in Bad Boys For Life when they tried to get through to an irritable, drugged-out accountant. If the duo is on some secret mission to stop a bomb from going off, you don’t really get that kind of thing.
Likewise, part of what makes this buddy cop series work is it doesn’t lose sight of the personal lives of the characters. Marcus is constantly worrying about stuff happening at home and how his wife is going to be mad at him. That provides great fodder for his banter with his partner and their push-and-pull relationship. I think that takes a backseat if the scale of the franchise gets too big.
It Would Lose Any Sense Of Realism
The other thing about turning Bad Boys into Fast and Furious is it would essentially jump the shark, robbing the former of any sense of realism or being grounded that it currently has. Sure, Bad Boys can be silly and ridiculous at times. I mean, how many police detectives drive around in a Porsche 911? But compared to Fast and Furious, Bad Boys has the gritty realism of The Wire.
If these aging detectives are suddenly chasing down technological fantasy weapons like something out of a Bond movie, Bad Boys turns from what it is and has been into something else entirely. It’s not just the story and character elements; the action also benefits from Bad Boys being grounded.
The action in Bad Boys isn’t a CGI-laden extravaganza. It’s old school action with car chases, fistfights, shootouts and explosions. Each film has escalated in terms of the scale of the action (that’s natural with any series), but those core qualities have essentially remained the same. Bad Boys stays in its lane.
The grounded and practical feel of Bad Boys’ action really works for it and gives us something that is increasingly lacking in the modern genre. If Sony turns Bad Boys into the new Fast and Furious franchise, the grounded action will inevitably evolve into more ridiculous and less grounded territory. Bad Boys might bend the laws of physics on occasion, but Fast & Furious hits the NOS button, gives Sir Isaac Newton the finger and breaks them entirely.
It’s not that the Fast and Furious franchise isn’t a blast in its own right, but these are two different things, and each has their own place. I don’t want to ever wonder if the next Bad Boys film will see Mike and Marcus going into space the way I do with Fast and Furious.
In my estimation, turning Bad Boys into the next Fast and Furious comes at a cost. The franchise would no longer be Bad Boys and would lose a lot of what has made these films what they are. And we haven’t even gotten into how an increase in scale and budget like what the Fast and Furious has might necessitate dropping down from the franchise’s historical R rating to a PG-13.
I’m glad Bad Boys is back and am very much looking forward to Bad Boys 4, but don’t make this into the new Fast and Furious franchise.