‘Bad Boys: Ride Or Die’ Review: Will Smith & Martin Lawrence In Over-The-Top But Fun 4th Time Around As Miami’s Memorable Cop Duo

It may all be ridiculous if you think about it too much, but this action-comedy franchise still has gas in the tank 30 years after the fortuitous teaming of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence first hit the beat as notorious Miami cops aka the “Bad Boys.”

Perhaps the most action-packed edition yet, Bad Boys: Ride or Die turns the tables on the two title stars as Mike Lawrey (Smith) and partner Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) find themselves on the run and on the other side of the law. Their beloved late Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano), who died at the hands of vicious cartel member Armando Aretas (Jacob Scipio) in the previous film, 2020’s Bad Boys for Life, is accused posthumously of being on the take from the cartels. The evidence seems undeniable and is upheld by Captain Rita (Paola Núñez), the new chief of the Advanced Miami Metro Operations, a former girlfriend of Mike who is now his boss.

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But Mike and Marcus are in possession of evidence to the contrary, presented incredibly from the beyond by Howard himself, who warns in a videotape that this would be something the bad guys would try to do. The fact is he was on to their plans and was trying to stop them, not join them. Screenwriters Chris Bremner and Will Beall have concocted a way to bring Pantoliano’s fan-favorite character back as sort of an Obi-wan Kenobi spiritual guide from the beyond to inspire our “bad boys” to dig deeper and get to the heart of the truth.

It gets complicated as Armando, now imprisoned, is the child of Mike, who got in over his head with his late mother and now is out prove Howard’s innocence and go after the real culprits, led by former military intelligence leader James McGrath (Eric Dane), whose whole division was wiped out by the cartel but now has gone to the dark side and sold out to very cartels he was once against. Mike will need to convince his reluctant son to join them and lead them to hornet’s nest, something only he could do.

Before jumping into the main plot that leads all the action — and there is more of it than any previous film in the franchise, or so it seems — Mike gets married to Christine (Melanie Liburd) at a lavish Miami Beach wedding where Marcus is best man but suffers a near-fatal heart attack on the dance floor. After seeing his life pass before him, he is given the word from beyond by the ethereal Capt. Howard that this was not his time. The heart problems give Lawrence plenty of material to do his comic thing as he tries to sneak junk food at every turn, all the while spouting the visions he had in his near-death experience.

Meanwhile, AMMO colleagues Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens) and Dorn (Alexander Ludwig) are having a secret affair but still trying to keep up “professional” appearances in helping Mike and Marcus in their quest. Rita has a new love interest in the mayoral candidate Lockwood (Ioan Gruffudd), but that gets complicated.

Plot aside, this movie obviously rests on the chemistry of Smith and Lawrence, who have managed to keep it alive now for three decades of these movies and do so here as well, despite being put in some rather ludicrous but eye-popping action sequences. They include one nightmarish helicopter ride where they are trying to transport Armando (still caged!) but are unaware that bad guys including McGrath are also on board. Especially amusing, in light of Smith’s notorious Oscar debacle, is a scene where Lawrence gets to slap him a few times.

There are plenty of chases, explosions, shootouts, all the stuff Michael Bay — director of the first two films — established in the template for this franchise (look for a tip of the hat to Bay, who turns up in a brief cameo driving a Porsche). Moroccan/Belgian directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (aka Adil & Bilall) took over on Bad Boys for Life and infused the series with a new perspective and some state-of-the-action-art touches that gave it all a fresh perspective some 17 years apart from Bay’s last effort. They have carried it all further here, not wildly believable but loads of fun, highlighted by Robrecht Heyvaert’s nifty cinematography that includes drones and a Snorricam attached to the actors to bring new angles to all the action. The color palettes showcasing a colorful Miami as it hasn’t been seen since Sinatra’s Tony Rome in the ’60s is equally impressive, as are Dan Lebental’s frenetic editing and Joe Billington’s inventive production design, particularly for the alligator tourist attraction where the explosive finale takes place. Lorne Balfe’s score does its job, and the soundtrack even includes a Reba McEntire take on the famous “Bad Boys” song, all for a funny pay off to a few Reba jokes thrown into the mix. Anything goes in this one, so check your brain at the door and just run with it.

Among the cast, Hudgens, Ludwig and Núñez return to their cops roles with relish, while Dane makes a rather one-note villain despite trying to give his character some gravitas in explaining his tortured background. Scipio really gets the opportunity to shine here and has the most significant supporting turn to Smith and Lawrence. He is excellent. Tiffany Haddish is largely wasted in the brief but colorful turn she is given. Past Bad Boys faves John Salley, DJ Khaled and Dennis McDonald all return, the latter first seen in Bad Boys II at age 15, especially impressive with his fighting skills this time around. Shout-out to stunt coordinator Greg Rementer who, after Furiosa and The Fall Guy, helps to prove this is turning out to be a very good year for stunt teams.

Producers are Jerry Bruckheimer, Chad Oman, Doug Belgrad and Smith. As he did on Top Gun: Maverick, Bruckheimer gives props to his late partner by identifying this as a Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Production.

Title: Bad Boys: Ride or Die
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: June 7, 2024
Director: Adil & Bilall
Screenplay: Chris Bremner and Will Beall
Cast: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Paola Núñez, Eric Dane, Ioan Gruffudd, Melanie Liburd, Tasha Smith, Tiffany Haddish, Joe Pantoliano, Jacob Scipio, John Salley, Khaded “DJ Khaled” Khaled, Dennis McDonald.
Rating: R
Running time: 1 hr 55 mins

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