Lorne Balfe’s Bad Boys For Life brings back Mark Mancina’s original theme in glorious form, and this alongside several well-composed action setpieces and a curious emphasis on darker tones makes for an enjoyable if not slightly repetitive action score experience.
Bad Boys For Life is an unusually short score, coming in at just under forty minutes long and twelve tracks wide. The first of which – expectedly titled Bad Boys For Life – introduces the score’s main theme, which (thankfully) is actually a reprise of Mark Mancina’s enjoyable and rather catchy motif that he composed for the original Bad Boys movie. Thematic continuity between composers is something of a rarity in the film score world, so it’s great to see that Lorne Balfe elected to include it in his sequel score. Overall this first cue acts essentially as a reimagining of Mancina’s theme, playing the original notes with modern electronics and synth alongside drum beats and vocals to (rather effectively) bridge the gap between old and new. Rather impressively in just under three minutes it successfully establishes and cements the Bad Boys tone as well as Balfe’s unique compositional style, and overall – as opening cues go, it’s a damn good one.
Fast-paced percussion and tense strings then open It’s Good Shit Lieutenant, with elements of Macina’s theme subtly hinting in the background. Things then darken slightly at the minute mark as loud and imposing brass joins the fray, and the strings then begin to rise in frequency and tension. Curiously, distorted electronics then appear, and these alongside the commanding brass and now quite frantic percussion as well as the arrival of loud, ominous vocals and a short reprise of the main theme make for a particularly dramatic and rather loud musical climax that then brings the cue to a close. Take Back What’s Ours then slows things down considerably and settles the score into much darker territory, with low brass and creepy strings setting a grim, villainous tone. While this track doesn’t have quite as much presence as the previous two, it does make for an intriguing change of pace, though sadly not one that lasts for particularly long (as it’s only two minutes long).
We’re Dangerous People then brings things back into action territory, though this time mixing in the darker tone established by the previous cue on brass alongside elements of Mancina’s main theme on strings. Rapid percussion takes up the background with distorted electronics occasionally making a fleeting appearance, and this along with a high pace then continues right up until the track’s end at just under four minutes long. What Else You Got? then kicks things up a few notches with a louder emphasis on strings and gallant brass together with a now much more present main theme. Woodwinds also play a rather enjoyable background part in this cue, adding to the frantic tension which then reaches its peak in the final minute as the main theme gradually grows louder, faster and more intense until the music then simply ends. Rather solemn strings then start off Prayer, with the dark, low brass then creeping in after a few seconds. A much slower and sadder rendition of the main theme then plays on quietly pensive strings, with funeral-esque vocals then subtly arriving in the background to overall make for quite the mournful track.
Loud, imposing brass and a return to the frantic pace kicks off God’s Gun, with Mancina’s main theme once again playing on rapid strings alongside frenzied percussion. Rather noticeably, Balfe appears to be settling into a bit of an action groove now, as the past few action cues have all sounded decidedly similar not just in tone but also compositional and structural style. Basically, it’s starting to sound a bit samey now. Thankfully, The Truth then switches things up again, moving the score back into darker territory but now with a particular emphasis on malevolence. The imposing brass from previous cues returns and is this time joined by louder, slower percussion. Almost horror-like high-pitched strings then arrive at the two minute mark, which are soon after then joined by some creepy and curiously rather ethereal-sounding vocals, overall making for quite a dark but interestingly different cue (at least, compared to the rest of the score so far).
Solemnity returns in Promise To God with slow, pensive strings and a perhaps oddly placed but actually rather effective electric guitar, which sits quietly dignified in the background for much of the track. The rather lengthy We Ride Together, We Die Together is then up next, and it pretty much instantly raises the spirits of the score with a rather hopeful rendition of Mancina’s main theme on strings, electronics, upbeat percussion and now rather epic-sounding vocals. Things then slow back down with quietly sombre strings at about three minutes in, though the pace then begins to quicken shortly after and hope starts to rise again with the reappearance of the main theme, and before long the fast-paced percussion and woodwinds arrive to kick things back into action. The darker, villainous brass then makes several infrequent appearances alongside the now quite heroic main theme, and the standout cue then closes as dramatically triumphant as it began.
Ambulance Heist opens with the now staple fast-paced percussion, which is before long joined by tense strings and the established loud brass with distorted electronics then making a curiously villainous appearance at the two minute mark. The main theme is nowhere to be found in this particular cue, and it is interesting to note just how much darker the score becomes in its absence. One Last Time then opens just as tense and fast-paced, though this time placing a larger emphasis on dramatic brass and the now rather anxious backing vocals. This all then builds to a loud and brass-heavy climax in the final minute, intriguingly ending the score on a much darker and more ominous note than I would have anticipated, with the main theme curiously entirely absent.
Overall, Lorne Balfe’s score for Bad Boys For Life is a great effort, and one that rather effectively bridges the gap between Mark Mancina’s decidedly 90s-esque original action score and Balfe’s more modern compositional style. Of particular note is the fantastic decision to bring back Mancina’s original main theme, which appears to great length across the album and very prominently in cue Bad Boys For Life and the standout We Ride Together, We Die Together. Admittedly, the very percussion-heavy action style of the score does start to get a little wearing towards the end (as it’s rather repetitive) but this is helped by occasional switches in tone (see Prayer and The Truth) and of course many appearances by the main theme. All-in, despite some flaws it’s a highly enjoyable action experience.
Standout Cue: 10. We Ride Together, We Die Together