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The Ending of ‘Bad Boys For Life’ Explained

‘Bad Boys For Life’ completes the action lover’s idea of the ‘Before Trilogy.’ We demand a sequel, but only when we can revisit Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in their geriatric prime.
Bad Boys For Life Ending
Sony Pictures Releasing
By  · Published on January 20th, 2020

Ending Explained is a recurring series in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. In this entry, we ride with the ending of Bad Boys for Life

A satisfying action film requires only one thing: action. As long as the violence is palpable and incessant, we’ll accept all kinds of garbage and celebrate the Bayhem in spite of plot holes, shoddy performances, and grotesque morality. If an action film also happens to supply charismatic puppets to charge through a gauntlet of explosions and car chases, then all the better. We’ll grant that film a sequel or two.

It may have taken twenty-five years, but Bad Boys For Life finally completes its lofty trilogy and secured a whole heap of box office in the process. In his review, our own Rob Hunter knighted the film a “terrific buddy comedy with heart and kick-ass action.” Few thought such a thing was possible, especially since Michael Bay‘s signature direction is noticeably absent, but Will Smith and Martin Lawrence carried the day and even had the stones to leave room for more. They had a good time too and are seemingly preparing audiences for Bad Boys Fourever. Hopefully, it won’t take another decade-plus to deliver (although, the idea of a geriatric reunion is appealing – this is already our action movie Before Trilogy after all).

The trilogy caps with one helluva revelation. The sexy, sultry, predatory philandering behavior of Smith’s Detective Mike Lowery has resulted in his greatest nemesis. Once upon a time, when he got down with a drug lord’s lady, they produced a spawn of destruction. Lowery has a kid, and he was raised on his mother’s bloodlust for revenge. Armando Armas (Jacob Scipio) wants to make his mother proud, and to do so, he murders his way through the Miami police department, including blasting a few rounds into Lowery’s midsection.

Father and son come to blows, also walls, floors, shattered glass, and helicopter wreckage. The film obviously doesn’t belong to Armando, so the kid doesn’t get the day, but his biological disclosure messes with his head as much as it does his father’s noggin. When bad mama Isabel (Kate del Castillo) goes to penetrate her one-time lover’s heart with a bullet, Armando jumps in the way.

Mike’s new girlfriend, Rita (Paola Núñez), annihilates his old one. All is right in the world. Armando survives his injuries but has to face cold prison bars where he can forever stew in remorse. Or, how ’bout this – Armando simply simmers until Papa Mike comes calling with a mission. Bad Boys Fourever, baby! Cut to Credits!

We end on the Fast and the Furious school of ethics. Like Deckard Shaw before him, Armando is freed from his sin with the flick of a title card. Sure, sure, sure, sure – you effortlessly assassinated a half dozen police officials, including fan-favorite Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano), but as long as you agree to switch sides and assassinate the people we want to be assassinated than all will be forgiven. The film flips from versus to team-up in a blink of an eye. Woosah, indeed.

Such a quick turnaround is not new to Bad Boys philosophy. These are righteous servants of the Lord, right? The film practically confirms that Lowery and Burnett (Lawrence) are tearing up the streets of Miami on God’s orders when He drops a Gatling gun in their lap during one particular motorcycle chase.

When Lowery goes down near the start of the film, and the likelihood of his survival appears grim (yeah right), Burnett gets on hands and knees and begs for God’s ear. He swears to Him that he’ll turn from a life of violence as long as He spares his partner’s life. The Lord answers, and Burnett makes his way to retirement.

Then comes that motorcycle chase and that Gatling gun. “That’s God’s gun!” screams Lowery. Burnett reneges on his promise and gets to blasting. Bad Boys believe in Old Testament vengeance and Old Testament rule-bending. If Dominic Toretto can smash his fist through nine films’ worth of henchmen while wearing a cross, then why can’t Lowery and Burnett? Why can’t Burnett’s sniper-happy son?

Because he tore Captain Howard’s throat out! He put a bullet through his neck while his granddaughter was bricking basketballs mere feet away! Armando didn’t just slaughter nameless judges, lawyers, and policemen. He also killed a beloved franchise character. You can’t let that go! He’s a bad seed and needs to spend more than a title card’s worth of time behind bars. Dammit.

Han, yo. Remember Han? Deckard Shaw Toyko Drift‘ed him into oblivion. We’re still hurt about that, but Universal Studios don’t care. He still got his spin-off movie. He said sorry, he saved a baby from a plane. He brought the action, and that’s all that’s required. We preach forgiveness as a society, and at least in our movies, we act on it.

Justice for Han? Justice for Captain Howard? Nah. Bad Boys for Life delivers the action, and it delivers the fraternity. We want to be a part of their club, and we can turn the other cheek and look the other way, as long as its only supporting players getting bumped off. Keep away from kickin’ puppies, and we should be good.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)