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Bad Boys: Ride or Die Review

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Photo of Will Smith

Will Smith

Columbia Pictures

Rated: R

115 Minutes

Directed by: Adil, Bilall

Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence


Bad Boys: Ride or Die Poster

While nobody can accuse the “Bad Boys” movies of being innovative, the producers did some very innovative things in 2020 when they relaunched the franchise 17 years after “Bad Boys II.” Of course, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence returned as Miami cops Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett. However, the filmmakers jettisoned the unmemorable supporting cast, except for Marcus’s family and their boss, Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano). Instead of a generic drug kingpin villain, the new big bad was Mike’s ex-flame, and her lieutenant was their son, Armando (Jacob Scipio). Mike and Marcus were also given a new task force of high-tech teammates. Finally, the film’s motivating force was Armando’s severely wounding Mike and later killing Captain Howard. The resulting “Bad Boys for Life” was no classic, but it was a refreshing update on a 25-year-old theme.

Fast forward to 2024, and we get “Bad Boys: Ride or Die.” It’s pretty much a direct sequel to “Bad Boys for Life,” with 

pretty much the same characters, including the deceased Captain Howard, who appears in some video messages sent to Mike and Marcus. The villains are pretty much the same group of expendable drug dealers and henchmen as in the previous movies. The result is a staler version of the three earlier films. It has occasionally entertaining banter between stars Smith and Lawrence and several over-the-top set pieces with high body counts and middling success. “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” will please franchise fans, but not more selective genre enthusiasts or filmgoers in general.

“Bad Boys: Ride or Die” begins with Mike’s wedding to his physical therapist, Christine (Melanie Liburd, a fresh addition to the series). The wedding celebration is abruptly interrupted, as you might expect in a “Bad Boys” movie, but not in the way you might expect. Marcus suffers a major heart attack and is rushed to the hospital. While half-conscious, he has a vision of Captain Howard telling him it’s not his time yet. When he awakens, Marcus interprets this as a sign that he’s impervious to harm and goes to the hospital roof, where he tells a shocked Mike that he could jump off the building and not get hurt. Fortunately, Mike talks him down, and the severe heart attack Marcus just suffered and any genuine health concerns become non-factors for the rest of the movie.

Although Marcus’s health is a non-issue, Mike’s health becomes a factor thanks to his conveniently appearing panic attacks at crucial times in the film. There’s nothing in the plots of the “Bad Boys” movies to explain these attacks. The filmmakers just use them to manufacture tension at crucial moments when Mike freezes up in the middle of a firefight. The panic attacks are a gimmick that is as cheap as it sounds.

What’s not cheap is the expense the villains go to, so they can frame the late Captain Howard. The shadowy big bad, McGrath (Eric Dane), deposits millions in cartel money in a bank account in Howard’s name they created after his death. A news story soon breaks that the captain might have been crooked. This allows Mike and Marcus to vow to clear Howard’s name and expose the real crooked cops behind the set-up. In another convenient plot device, a now-repentant Armando knows who McGrath is by sight but not by name, and offers to help Mike and Marcus locate him. This leads to another convenient plot device when McGrath orchestrates a crash involving the helicopter bringing Mike, Marcus, and Armando back to Miami. Of course, they survive, but thanks to McGrath’s latest frame-up, Mike and Marcus are suspected as the cause of the crash and go on the run with Armando.

What follows is what viewers expect in the “Bad Boys” franchise: bickering between Mike and Marcus, shootouts, more bickering, and more shootouts. The finale is in an abandoned theme park patterned after the actual Florida tourist trap, Gatorland (exactly what it sounds like). When one character notes that the park’s star attraction, a giant albino alligator, is rumored to still inhabit the nearby waters, viewers know that some bad guy will become Purina Gator Chow later in the film.

The movie’s action scenes are a mixed bag. Directors Adil and Bilall return from “Bad Boys for Life” and are determined to reprise former franchise director Michael Bay’s tendencies toward loud, slow-motion excess. So, a shootout at a trendy nightclub turns into a cringeworthy attempt in slow motion by Marcus to catch and eat some jelly beans that tumble from a giant urn shattered in the shootout. The theme park finale is well-staged, though, but the film’s two best set pieces don’t involve Mike and Marcus and are relatively straightforward. In one scene, Armando survives an attempt on his life in the prison outdoor rec area by using workout weights and other handy items to his advantage. Later, Marcus’s son-in-law Reggie, a Marine on leave, uses his Marine training. He shows up in the nick of time to save the rest of Marcus’s family from a dozen armed would-be assassins.

The “Bad Boys” screenwriters gave up the notion of anything resembling serious drama long ago. In another movie, Marcus’s brush with death might have caused him to reconsider his lifestyle or profession. Here, it’s just an excuse to turn his junk food cravings into an unfunny obsession. In the absence of genuine drama, “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” ramps up the effort to turn the bad-boy pair of Mike and Marcus into part of an ensemble, as the “Fast and Furious” cast has become. Vanessa Hudgens and Alexander Ludwig are back from the last film as Mike’s former teammates and the only cops he can trust. So, too, is Paola Nunez as Mike’s former boss and another ex-girlfriend. This time, Rhea Seehorn adds to the mix as Howard’s daughter, a U.S. marshal. She’s in the movie for two reasons, to swear revenge on Armando, creating some tension audiences know won’t last, and to have her daughter get kidnapped by the bad guys, creating a different type of tension.

As you realize by now, “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” represents the most derivative, predictable type of screenwriting. Every plot development is clear to the audience well before anyone on-screen realizes it. However, one thing that can’t be faked or predicted is the natural chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, which has lasted through four movies and almost 30 years. They’re rarely laugh-out-loud funny playing off each other, but their banter is the usual comfortable sort longtime couples enjoy. And that makes “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” watchable despite the action excesses, plot predictability, and overall lack of humor. I can’t recommend the movie, but it’s tolerable. People will be content to ride along with Mike and Marcus instead of making a beeline for the theater exit.

In this clip, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence take on the bad guys in a night club shootout:

Watch Bad Boys on Amazon Prime Video:

Bad Boys Streaming
Bad Boys II Streaming
Bad Boys for Life Streaming

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