I've always thought of Joe Carnahan as an under-appreciated talent. Films like Narc and The Grey have shown that the man knows how to write and direct tense, hard-hitting thrills. Even The A-Team I felt was unfairly beaten up by critics- which contributed to its unfortunate box office performance. To me, A-Team was unapologetically over the top, and not meant to be taken particularly seriously. It was a testosterone-fueled popcorn action extravaganza that, for some reason, critics expected to be something more. To borrow an analogy I used earlier this year, it was a slurpee.
Anyway, I think Carnahan may have found just the right vehicle for his skill set. It'll allow him to create the kind of macho action spectacle he likes to make, and give him access to characters and actors that have enough chemistry and star power to make the material fly. Not to mention, it's a franchise that has a built-in fan base, so it could be his biggest showing at the box office to date.
The film in question is Bad Boys 3 or, as it's now called, Bad Boys For Life.
The sequel, which will bring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence back for a third go-around as Mike and Marcus, will arrive in theaters 15 years after Bad Boys 2, and Carnahan sounds incredibly psyched to be taking over the reins for the series.
"Unless you’re Toy Story 3, usually third ones aren’t the strongest, and I think this one will be the strongest of the trilogy thus far," Carnahan tells io9. Carnahan, who also wrote the movie, says it's "the strongest script of any of those movies. Hands down. In a walk over."
It's interesting for Carnahan to get all braggadocious about the threequel, considering he wasn't involved with either of the first two films- which were directed by Michael Bay. For a newcomer to walk onto a property and say he's going to blow what his predecessors created away is pretty ballsy. But that's Carnahan in a nutshell: Ballsy.
Something that aided Carnahan in creating this script he's so proud of is a production delay, which he says helped him fine tune Bad Boys For Life. From the sound of it, the extra time allowed him to bring some The Grey-style psychological gravitas to help balance out what is sure to be a ton of gonzo Smokin' Aces-style action.
"There’s a lot of funny shit in this movie,” Carnahan says. “And there’s also a very mysterious, but tonally spot-on story that I think is kind of perfect for where we are in this day and age, where the guys are and reflectively, a very modern take on these guys. It’s kind of what becomes of Bad Boys when they’re not boys anymore."
He's also grateful for the delay, which saw the release of Bad Boys For Life shifted from June 2017 to January 2018, because it allowed him time to get all of the actors involved in the same room and to workshop the script a bit. Smith, who has been tied up with Suicide Squad- a film that reminded the world that he was one of the few remaining true movie stars- couldn't participate in the pre-production until recently.
"We couldn’t all get in a room, go through this thing and really ring it out,” he said. “I’m a big believer in ‘Do the work at the script level until you’ve got something you know works.’ That everyone is happy with, the stars are happy with, the director is happy with, the studio is happy with."
Acknowledging the hit-or-miss nature of sequels that come so long after their predecessors, Carnahan says he wouldn't be making Bad Boys For Life if he didn't think it would top the others. In other words, he wants it to be Terminator 2, not Terminator 3.
"When you’re coming back after 15 years, you better come back with a homerun ball,” says the director. “And I really believe that’s what we have. We’ve got a responsibility to make something that’s absolutely equivalent or exceeds what comes before. That’s a really important thing for all of us."
Sounds like Carnahan wants to breathe new life into the Bad Boys franchise and- by extension- his career, which could use a really big, broad hit. Opening it in the same release window as the similar 2014 buddy action smash Ride Along should also work in the film's favor when Bad Boys For Life arrives in theaters on January 12, 2018.