As a movie, Bad Boys for Life doesn't always have the same ease and comfort that Lawrence brings to the proceedings. Perhaps nervous that younger audiences won't have the same affinity for these '90s icons, directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah stack the cast with young actors like Spring Breakers star Vanessa Hudgens and Riverdale's Charles Melton, who play members of the Miami police department's special AMMO squad. Though Joe Pantoliano's Captain Howard is still around, screaming his head off at every opportunity, the movie makes some unconvincing gestures towards Fast and Furious-style franchise building. The mix of the old and the new -- Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster chaos outfitted with rubber bullets, body cams, and tactical drones -- can make for an occasionally awkward fit.
Luckily, it's easy to ignore what doesn't work and focus on parts that do: the shoot-outs, the car chases, and Lawrence delivering lines like "Mike, you fucked a married witch." At the packed screening I attended, it took a little time for the crowd to settle into the movie's herky-jerky rhythms, but by the end Lawrence had everyone eating out of his hand, particularly in an uproarious plane confrontation that puts a similar scene of macho bickering in last year's Hobbs & Shaw to shame. Even if Bad Boys for Life gets a little gooey and sentimental towards the end, you feel like the movie earns it. Like the character he plays, Lawrence might be too old for this shit, but he doesn't show it.