Bad Boys: Ride or Die (2024) Review

Bad Boys: Ride or Die (2024) Review

Bad Boys: Ride or Die (2024)
Director: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah
Screenwriters: Chris Bremner, Will Beall
Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Paola Núñez, Eric Dane, Ioan Gruffudd, Jacob Scipio, Melanie Liburd, Tasha Smith, Rhea Seehorn, Joe Pantoliano, Quinn Hemphill

Questions must be asked in films, and with the fourth instalment of the Bad Boys franchise, the question is simple: ‘Whacha gonna do when they come for you?’

Every action movie series needs to have a film in which our main characters find themselves outlaws, on the run for their lives, and Bad Boys: Ride or Die is that time for Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. A somewhat strange kind of cross between Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and John Wick: Parabellum, Mike (Smith) and Marcus (Lawrence) are out to clear Captain Howard’s (Joe Pantoliano) name after evidence points to him having connections with the cartels over the decades. What’s the best way for the bad guys to stop Mike and Marcus? Frame them for working with the Captain, and put a $5million bounty on their heads for every gang in Miami, dead or alive.

As the previous film, Bad Boys for Life (2020), tried to make the series more mature, moving it into the 21st century with introspective and flawed main characters, so this film tries to shift the focus in some way from Mike to Marcus. Both have their moments, but Martin Lawrence’s cop is the one this time to go through the existential crisis, questioning his job and mortality (or seeming immortality.) In some fairly nice, simple and surreal dream sequences – sequences with some especially inventive transitions for a big-budget action blockbuster franchise – they give Marcus the chance to try and come to terms with the death of the captain in the previous film, and what that means for him. Unfortunately, the film plays it off for laughs, instead of the characters trying to make light of a serious situation or find some semblance of humanity. It’s a shame that he is, for the most part, the weakest link in the film, as we have to spend most of our time with him.

If Bad Boys for Life didn’t alert us to the shift from buddy-cop to full-on action extravaganza, then this film certainly cements itself in its new wheelhouse. The story could be close to a James Bond, Mission Impossible, or Fast and Furious film, only with the buddy cop element still present. It still has its moments – the odd car-ride back-and-forth and grocery-store meltdown that happens in all instalments, as well as the slow-motion pan around the pair of leads – but most of the rest of Bad Boys: Ride or Die has a typical modern blockbuster feel.

Maybe this is for the best, because the humour doesn’t land nearly as much as it should. Earlier films had it working just about well enough. It was the best thing about the original 1995 Bad Boys film (even if it was mostly based on immaturity) because the actors pulled it off. By the time it gets to film number four, this film, the lines feel recycled and derivative. The occasional crass remark is inserted because the writers thought that’s what had to happen, and aside from one or two soft hits, most shots are wide of the mark.

Although the action sequences do their jobs, with lots of explosions and crashes and the odd neon-soaked, ultra-violet gunfight, they are rougher and more shakily put together. A few bits of flair that previous director Michael Bay wouldn’t have done in a thousand years aren’t enough to save it from being largely uninteresting upon close inspection.

The reason that the film holds together in any way is because of the other characters. In particular, Rhea Sheehorn’s performance in a beach-scene at the end of the film is by far Ride of Die’s most poignant moment, and an elevator scene involving Rita (Paola Núñez) and Lockwood (Ioan Gruffudd) is the most interesting for style and direction, and has far darker undertones than you might expect. Their involvement in a good number of the action sequences keeps it intact, keeps it from reverting back to the comedy that doesn’t land, and makes them actually enjoyable.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die isn’t an intrinsically bad movie. It has its downs, but it also has moments that are good. But that’s the problem. If it’s a good film, why wasn’t it an exceptional film? Check your brains in at the door, because you don’t need them – if this is the last one, it would be a decent, acceptably done ending. If it rides any further, it might just die.

Score: 14/24

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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