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Bad Boys for Life

The ‘Bad Boys’ films aren’t known for high art or subtlety. Riffing on the cop buddy formula, the previous two films were considerable hits filled with lots of action and politically incorrect humour. ‘Bad Boys for Life’ has been a long time coming with the previous instalment screening in 2003. The world may have dramatically changed since but the style of story-telling the series is known for remains in all its kitsch glory.

Miami detectives Marcus (Martin Lawrence) and Mike (Will Smith) have been partners in crime for years. Marcus now wants to be a police inspector while Mike is charged with looking after a younger generation of cops. Their past catches up with them when the wife and son of a drug lord killed by Marcus and Mike seek vengeance. With guns at their disposal, the duo unite one last time in a cavalcade of chaos and calamity.

‘Bad Boys for Life’ contains genuine surprises. Not so much in its performances or over the top action, all of which are as expected. The surprise arrives from a script having more depth than usual. This may sound ridiculous for a ‘Bad Boys’ flick, but the plot ensues it has a more involving and personal connection for the characters. The stakes are higher with events not playing out as you’d expect.

This added layer of true danger makes ‘Bad Boys for Life’ more compelling viewing. That isn’t to say it’s all Shakespeare because it definitely isn’t that. The lead’s charisma, fast moving plot, well filmed action sequences make for entertaining fun. The visuals are spectacular as ever, with a glossy comic-book sheen successfully conveying the film’s general outlandish flavour.

These types of films have their fans and ‘Bad Boys for Life’ delivers a little more than you’d expect. It isn’t a lazy re-tread like so many other sequels. It’s diverting for what it is with a better character and narrative focus than previous instalments. These boys may be bad but it isn’t bad to enjoy this slice of silly hokum for those wanting OTT escapism.

Rating out of 10: 7

1917

Both World Wars of the 20th century have continued to provide boundless stories for films. You’d think there would be nothing left to say with hundreds of movies examining the wars from all angles. Making Sam Mendes’ latest directorial effort ‘1917’ stand out is its visceral intensity. With a small ensemble cast and a tightly focussed narrative, ‘1917’ successfully adds another layer to the danger and folly of war-time heroics.

In 1917, the First World War still rages. William (George MacKay) and Tom (Dean Charles-Chapman) are two British Lance Corporals sent on an important mission. The soldiers are tasked with hand-delivering a message to a Battalion warning them of a German ambush. Criss-crossing land filled with mines and enemy soldiers, the duo chart treacherous terrain with their goal forever seeming out of reach.

Based on a relative’s stories, ‘1917’ is clearly a passion project for Sam Mendes. Whilst its tale of comrade-ship and war’s brutality is nothing new, Mendes ensures the film feels more personal. William and Tom rely on each other for survival and how they push through the constant horrors they witness is remarkable. This is more potent due to its factual truth with the scars of battle on those who actually participated lasting a lifetime.

Although the actors and story are consistently compelling and Mendes’ direction sublime, the real star of ‘1917’ is cinematographer Roger Deakins. You are thrown into the midst of the grimy, bloody trenches from the first frame with stunning photography throughout with the visuals bringing a genuine sense of danger and death the soldiers faced. ‘1917’ is a purely cinematic experience that even the world of streaming will not be able to compete.

Even though it occasionally feels somewhat slowly paced, ‘1917’ is like a throwback to older style film-making. Despite the grim subject matter, ‘1917’ succeeds due to its epic feel and never-ending tension. Its frank depiction of the battlefield ensures it stands out from a litany of war heavy contenders.

Rating out of 10: 8