Thursday, June 13, 2024

“BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE”

THE STORY – When their late police captain gets linked to drug cartels, wisecracking Miami cops Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett embark on a dangerous mission to clear his name.

THE CAST – Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Paola Núñez, Eric Dane, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhea Seehorn, Jacob Scipio, Melanie Liburd, Tasha Smith, Tiffany Haddish & Joe Pantoliano

THE TEAM – Adil & Bilall (Directors), Chris Bremner & Will Beall (Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 115 Minutes


Whenever you hear Inner Circles’ “Bad Boys” start playing, your mind ultimately begins to think about the iconic police duo synonymous with the song. Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, the “Bad Boys” themselves, have become a staple in the careers of both its stars, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Seeing the wise-cracking, gun-slinging detectives cause havoc throughout a sun-soaked Miami never failed to elicit some enjoyment. Audiences would agree as the Michael Bay-directed film became a series that has now grossed over $800 million worldwide. It seems time has only garnered goodwill with audiences as the last entry, “Bad Boys For Life,” became the most successful film of the series so far and the highest-grossing domestic film of 2020 before the world temporarily shut down. Directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (also known as Adil and Bilall) took over the reins from Bay and reinvigorated the Bad Boys brand with the energy necessary to revitalize the duo for a newer generation. With “Bad Boys For Life,” it felt like a win for everyone involved, yet after seeing “Bad Boys: Ride or Die,” it feels as if the whole crew is already struggling to recapture that magic.

Thankfully for viewers, some things haven’t changed for Mike (Smith) and Marcus (Lawrence). “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” starts with the pair on the way to Mike’s wedding, as he’s finally ready to tie the knot. Hijinks ensue as one would expect, showing us that Smith and Lawrence can immediately tap back into these characters they’ve made so popular. Similar to the last film, the pair’s lives are turned upside down pretty early on as Mike and Marcus are dragged into a conspiracy involving the late Captain Conrad Howard (reprised by Joe Pantoliano). This leads them on a mission to exonerate their departed captain in an escapade filled with shootouts, an abandoned amusement park, and a slew of celebrity cameos. By this point, you already know what you’re signing up for with a Bad Boys outing already three films deep into this series.

Adil and Bilall’s eye for spectacle is undoubtedly one of the stronger aspects of “Ride or Die.” The directors aim to maintain their overtly fluid and slick eye for action while also attempting to up the ante. It’s more of the same as the last film, with various shootouts occurring, drone shots inserting themselves throughout the chaos and the camera swapping between third- and first-person points of view. While it doesn’t always work, it’s admirable how much Adil and Bilall constantly try to push themselves forward with what they can do on screen. That said, most of the action feels like a step down from the previous film. A lack of emotional heft behind each fight and some sake of stakes is not apparent in this film in any way. There’s a significant sequence involving a helicopter falling from the sky (which is featured in the film’s trailer) that while captured competently, ultimately feels like what could be the beginning of the Fast or Furious-fication for the “Bad Boys.” The same thing could be applied to the screenplay for “Ride or Die.”

No one is trying to claim that the Bad Boy films have consistently been the most subversive or well-rounded stories told of this mode of action flick, but with “Ride or Die,” most of it feels like it’s held together by the thinnest of threads. It’s also shocking how much of the humor falls flat in this film. There’s a running bit with Marcus, who experiences a health scare, leading him to become emboldened with delusional confidence. It’s funny at first, but it runs its course sooner rather than later. There is some sense of cohesion from the last film as most of the characters introduced in “Bad Boys For Life” return. Most of the crew, such as Dorn (played by Alexander Ludwig) and Kelly (played by Vanessa Hudgens), come back, albeit in far less prominent roles. Rita (played by Paola Núñez) also returns and, for some reason, is awkwardly written out of a relationship with Mike set up at the end of the last film. The best-returning character is Jacob Scipio’s Armando, who remains one of the better additions to the series in recent memory. The former drug kingpin (and son of Mike) ends up tagging along with the crew. Sure, there are moments Scipio gets to let loose, including a brief but sick prison fight. He mostly sits as a passenger, third wheeling to Mike and Marcus’ usual routine. The film genuinely attempts at times to explore the fractured bond between Mike and Armando, but it remains one of the film’s more underdeveloped storylines.

Most new faces that join the series don’t work as well, either, especially with the material they are given. Rhea Sheehorn plays Captain Howard’s daughter, a hardened U.S. Marshall with close ties to Mike and Marcus, and is ultimately forced to hunt down the pair of cops. Unfortunately, a role that should play into her skill set as a performer is so underwritten that she sticks out like a sore thumb. Another addition to the series is Eric Dane, who plays the film’s heavy and is meant to be some type of foil to Mike and Marcus. It becomes pretty evident early on that not only is he a worthy matchup to our protagonists, but he’s also not very interesting. Compared to Scipio and Kate Del Castillo in the previous film, Dane’s villain is one of the least memorable antagonists of the series as well as one of the weakest aspects of “Ride or Die.” By the time you get to the end, all the boxes for a Bad Boy film are checked off, even if it feels like everyone’s stumbling to get to the conclusion.

“Bad Boys: Ride or Die” will somewhat please those who have a loyal adoration of these characters. Watching Smith and Lawrence go at each other’s neck never fails to elicit a smile, even if the routine is starting to wear its mileage. There’s even a scene in “Ride or Die” that’s so dumb yet so satisfying that it easily skyrockets to becoming the best bit in the film. Yet, watching the movie, you can’t help but feel something’s off. It felt like “Bad Boys For Life” was a genuinely good place to end this series and put these characters away for good. Of course, when success comes, a desire exists to keep pushing something past its expiration date. After recent events for those behind the production, everyone involved was seemingly ready to return to something familiar and cash in on what was assumed to be a slam dunk. Unfortunately, it leads to what feels like an unnecessary epilogue that results in the series’ weakest entry. Sure, it’s fun to watch our favorite aging Miami cops put themselves through the wringer for our entertainment, but at what cost? It may be time the Bad Boys collect their pension and turn in their badges and guns for good.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Despite the routine getting a bit old, Smith and Lawrence's chemistry is still unmatched, maintaining an energy that keeps this film afloat. Adil and Bilall's sensibilities as action filmmakers are palpable, creating some fun sequences if it doesn't match the emotional or technical quality of the last film.

THE BAD - The story is the weakest of the series, inhabited by new characters who are either uninteresting or underdeveloped. Mike and Armando's relationship doesn't resonate. It feels like a step backward after the success of "Bad Boys For Life."

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 5/10

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Giovanni Lago
Giovanni Lago
Devoted believer in all things cinema and television. Awards Season obsessive and aspiring filmmaker.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Despite the routine getting a bit old, Smith and Lawrence's chemistry is still unmatched, maintaining an energy that keeps this film afloat. Adil and Bilall's sensibilities as action filmmakers are palpable, creating some fun sequences if it doesn't match the emotional or technical quality of the last film.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The story is the weakest of the series, inhabited by new characters who are either uninteresting or underdeveloped. Mike and Armando's relationship doesn't resonate. It feels like a step backward after the success of "Bad Boys For Life."<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>5/10<br><br>"BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE"