Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star in Columbia Pictures 'Bad Boys: Ride of Die.'

(L to R) Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star in Columbia Pictures 'Bad Boys: Ride of Die.' Photo: Frank Masi. © 2024 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Opening in theaters June 7th is ‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die,’ directed by Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah and starring Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Paola Nuñez, Ioan Gruffudd, Eric Dane, Jacob Scipio, and Joe Pantoliano.

Related Article: ‘Bad Boys 4’ Officially in Pre-Production with Directors Adil El Arbi Bilall Fallah Back

Initial Thoughts

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star in Columbia Pictures 'Bad Boys: Ride of Die.'

(L to R) Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star in Columbia Pictures 'Bad Boys: Ride of Die.' Photo: Frank Masi. © 2024 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

No one was more surprised than us when we walked out of 2020’s ‘Bad Boys for Life’ having enjoyed the film. Especially coming some 17 years after the unpleasant ‘Bad Boys II,’ and with Michael Bay abdicating the director’s chair to Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (credited as Adil & Bilall), the third entry in the franchise was as mayhemic (if not Bayhemic) as ever, but actually offered up some character development, a decently structured plot, and yes, plenty of eye-watering yet well-staged action and violence, not to mention the undeniable Will Smith-Martin Lawrence chemistry.

Flash forward five years and it seems the ‘Bad Boys’ franchise has actually flashed back a bit: ‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’ is more frenzied, sillier, and more mind-numbing than its predecessor. The returning Adil & Bilall (along with encoring screenwriter Chris Bremmer, this time working with Will Beall, whose less-than-sparkling credits include ‘Gangster Squad’ and ‘Aquaman’) seem to be leaning into the style of the first two ‘Bad Boys’ entries, and while Smith and Lawrence still have their act down, it’s starting to feel a little like a parody of itself. ‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’ still manages to be fairly entertaining, but it feels like eating too much of a meal you weren’t even sure you wanted.

Story and Direction

Directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah on the set of Columbia Pictures 'Bad Boys: Ride of Die.'

(L to R) Directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah on the set of Columbia Pictures 'Bad Boys: Ride of Die.' Photo: Frank Masi. © 2024 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

You want story? ‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’ gives you plenty – or least piles on incidents and plot points like a wobbly Jenga game. Just in the first 15 minutes alone, perennial bachelor and lead Bad Boy Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) gets hitched – a lot happened in the last four years, we guess – while his partner in detective work and destruction, Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) has a heart attack while dancing at Mike’s wedding. A near-death vision of the late Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano, picking up a paycheck) convinces Marcus to channel his inner Jeff Bridges circa ‘Fearless’ and walk on the ledge of the hospital roof after he recovers, while we also discover that Mike is now suffering from panic attacks – you know, the kind that always pop up at critical life-or-death moments in a movie like this.

It turns out that Marcus’ vision isn’t the last we’ll see of Joey Pants; after it comes out that Captain Howard is, for some reason, being investigated after his death for colluding with the drug cartels, Mike and Marcus are sent a recording that Howard made before his death in which he says he’s the one who’s been investigating the corruption and it goes all the way up the food chain of Miami P.D. and perhaps higher. That, it turns out, is the real reason why he was shot to death by Mike’s illegitimate son Armando (Jacob Scipio) in ‘Bad Boys for Life,’ in a neat bit of comic-book-style retconning.

Before you can say ‘plot contrivance,’ Mike and Marcus find themselves targeted for investigation, while the real villains – a shadowy militia unit led by former DEA officer and cartel prisoner James McGrath (Eric Dane) – are setting them up as well, placing a bounty on their heads with every gang in Miami. Soon the Bad Boys are on the run, joined along the way by Armando, who has been sprung from federal prison to help his father catch the true conspirators.

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith star in Columbia Pictures 'Bad Boys: Ride of Die.'

(L to R) Martin Lawrence and Will Smith star in Columbia Pictures 'Bad Boys: Ride of Die.' Photo: Frank Masi. © 2024 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

All of this, as well as the increasingly chaotic action, Smith and Lawrence’s banter breaks, and the introduction or re-introduction of a lot of characters we don’t really need, is presented almost as an ongoing recap of the movie you’re watching as you watch it.

Adil & Bilall move everything along at breakneck speed, with one scene practically butting into another before the previous one is finished, and while there’s a certain energy to it all, it also feels numbing after a while. Mike and Marcus seem to get out of almost every situation they’re in, making the stakes feel less substantial than they are, and for the grand climax at an abandoned amusement park (complete with 16-foot alligator still lurking on the grounds), the pair all but assemble their own version of the Avengers for the big shootout, even including high-tech battle drones.

Yes, the movie is insane, more so than ‘Bad Boys for Life,’ but we can’t say we weren’t intermittently entertained along the way. When we can actually see the action (it feels far more muddled this time than in ‘For Life’), some of it’s quite exciting: perhaps the best moment is when Marcus’ Marine son-in-law Reggie (Dennis McDonald) takes on 15 assassins by himself in a clear audition for ‘Bad Boys: The Next Generation’ (Jacob Scipio’s Armando seems to be auditioning for that project as well). And while a lot of the jokes fall kind of flat, there are a few laugh-out-loud moments here as well.

The Cast

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith star in Columbia Pictures 'Bad Boys: Ride of Die.'

(L to R) Martin Lawrence and Will Smith star in Columbia Pictures 'Bad Boys: Ride of Die.' Photo: Frank Masi. © 2024 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This is only Will Smith’s second film (following the ill-fated ‘Emancipation’) to arrive after the infamous Oscar slap that was heard around the world. While it kind of works for Lowrey, who has at least shown some character growth in the series, Smith seems to have lost some of his usual infectious energy here and comes across a bit muted. He’s still a compelling presence, and while he still has that chemistry with Lawrence, he (or his character) seems more impatient with the latter this time out.

As well he should: Lawrence is embarrassing. His Marcus is more or less played as a complete fool now, whether he’s standing bare-assed on a roof or immersed in hip-deep water while facing an alligator. Lawrence still manages to get off a few good lines (“He’s racist!” he exclaims after his confrontation with the gator doesn’t end well) and when he focuses, he can play off Smith well, but focus is his problem: Marcus is less a character and more a collection of pratfalls and extended bits that go nowhere.

The problem with the rest of the cast – aside from the fact that there are too many of them -- is that they either don’t get time to do much or have their true nature telegraphed far too early in the film. Vanessa Hudgens’ Kelly, Alexander Ludwig’s Dorn, and Paola Nuñez’s Rita Secada (who’s now the Bad Boys’ captain) are simply the support system for the stars, while other returning cast members (and one returning filmmaker) just show up for glorified cameos. Only Armando, Lowrey’s son, has something resembling a character arc this time out, and the dynamic between father and son provide the film’s fleeting moments of genuine emotion and introspection.

Final Thoughts

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith star in Columbia Pictures 'Bad Boys: Ride of Die.'

(L to R) Martin Lawrence and Will Smith star in Columbia Pictures 'Bad Boys: Ride of Die.' Photo: Frank Masi. © 2024 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

But c’mon, you don’t come to a ‘Bad Boys’ movie for introspection, right? As we said earlier, this is a movie that is overstuffed – with plot, with characters, with action, with crazy camera moves. It starts at around 60mph and quickly escalates from there, but there’s simply never enough time for the viewer to truly feel anything (and since most of it was filmed in Georgia, the Miami flavor and bouncing soundtrack set the scene but never quite suffuse the movie).

Nevertheless, there’s just enough action and, in the third act, suspense to keep us going for two hours. Smith is certainly still watchable, even if Lawrence has become a chore. When Adil & Bilall get the mix of violence, character, and comedy right – as they did in ‘For Life’ – this can be an entertaining buddy-cop crowd-pleaser. At the very least, the ‘Bad Boys’ franchise seems to be the last one standing in a once-popular genre that has since fallen on hard times. But this cinematic fast-food meal might leave you feeling full and empty at the same time.

‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’ receives 6 out of 10 stars.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die

"Miami's finest are now its most wanted."
72
R1 hr 55 minJun 7th, 2024
Showtimes & Tickets

What is the plot of ‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’?

When the late Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) is implicated in a longstanding string of drug-related crimes, the Bad Boys -- Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) -- attempt to clear his name, only to find themselves framed as well. With a bounty on their heads, they’re forced to go on the run from the drug cartel, the local gangs, and their fellow officers in the Miami PD.

Who is in the cast of ‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’?

  • Will Smith as Detective Mike Lowrey
  • Martin Lawrence as Detective Marcus Burnett
  • Vanessa Hudgens as Kelly
  • Alexander Ludwig as Dorn
  • Paola Nuñez as Captain Rita Secada
  • Eric Dane as James McGrath
  • Ioan Gruffudd as Lockwood
  • Jacob Scipio as Armando Aretas
  • Joe Pantoliano as Captain Conrad Howard

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star in Columbia Pictures 'Bad Boys: Ride of Die.'

(L to R) Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star in Columbia Pictures 'Bad Boys: Ride of Die.' Photo: Frank Masi. © 2024 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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