Bad Boys: Ride or Die (2024, dirs. Arbi and Fallah)

by | Jun 6, 2024

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 115 mins

UK Distributor: Sony Pictures

UK Release Date: 5 June 2024

WHO’S IN BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE?

Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Paola Núñez, Eric Dane, Ioan Gruffudd, Jacob Scipio, Melanie Liburd, Tasha Smith, Tiffany Haddish, Joe Pantoliano, John Salley, DJ Khaled, Rhea Seehorn, Joyner Lucas, Quinn Hemphill

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Arbi and Fallah (directors), Will Beall and Chris Bremner (writers), Doug Belgrad, Jerry Bruckheimer, Chad Oman and Will Smith (producers), Lorne Balfe (composer), Robrecht Heyvaert (cinematographer), Asaf Eisenberg and Dan Lebental (editors)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Miami detectives Mike (Smith) and Marcus (Lawrence) find themselves on the run…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE?

The last time that the Bad Boys reigned in cinemas, it was right before the global pandemic shut down cinemas everywhere. Since then, the theatrical market has struggled to regain its footing, with audiences failing to turn up for some of the costlier tentpoles that would have normally been sure-fire hits with both critics and audiences, not to mention the popularity of streaming and digital which has conditioned viewers to wait mere months before it pops up on those platforms.

Consider it a full-circle moment, then, that the Bad Boys franchise is swooping back into cinemas right at the point when they are perhaps in most need of saving. After a number of high-profile box office disappointments like The Fall Guy and Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, exhibitors deserve a bona fide audience hit that will entertain the masses while also raking in much-needed dough, and I fail to see how Bad Boys: Ride or Die will underperform like those other blockbusters did.

That doesn’t automatically make it a truly great film like Furiosa, though. In fact, Bad Boys: Ride or Die is as loud, dumb, incoherent and utterly baffling as you’d expect from this series, with this one in particular being so bonkers in its execution and even more nonsensical in its plotting that it’s hard to articulate how mindless it actually is. But when it’s this fun to watch, not to mention the fact that the golden chemistry of its two leads is still very much in the driver’s seat, it’s hard to complain that much.

When the film opens, with Miami’s top detectives Mike Lowery (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) speeding down the highway – and, during a quick snack stopover, foil a convenience store robbery along the way – we learn that a surprising amount has happened to the cops since we last saw them. For one, former confirmed bachelor Mike has just married a woman named Christine (Melanie Liburd), while his illegitimate son Armando (Jacob Scipio) is locked up for his crimes in the past movie, including the murder of police captain Conrad Howard (Joe Pantoliano). Meanwhile, Marcus – having survived a near-fatal heart attack – has come back to life convinced he’s unkillable, which comes with a newfound recklessness that sees him happily waltz into danger, much to his partner’s annoyance. However, when Howard is posthumously linked to the cartels, the detectives suspect that their slain captain is being framed, but they are soon set up themselves by the film’s big bad James McGrath (Eric Dane), a murderous brute who forces them to go on the run with Armando, and to work outside the law in order to bring him down.

Even though Michael Bay is no longer directing these movies (both this and the previous film, Bad Boys for Life, were helmed by the Belgian duo known as Arbi and Fallah), the director’s notoriously bombastic and over-the-top style is inescapable – to where Bay himself even has a brief cameo in the film, as he did in the previous one, effectively making him this universe’s Stan Lee. Here, Arbi and Fallah lean heavily into action sequences with rapid-fire editing, tricksy camera angles (including one pretty cool POV shot that’s like the N64 GoldenEye game on steroids) and numerous flying drone shots, along with moments of borderline juvenile comedy such as an overly confident Marcus literally moonwalking into traffic, or him obsessing over sugary snacks while Barry White plays on the soundtrack. Unlike Bay, though, the filmmakers just about manage to rein in the insanity without sacrificing the legitimate entertainment factor, as they find ways to make the loud and incoherent action surprisingly palatable amidst the chaos, despite a senseless plot with murky villain motivations and twists that are as predictable as a heatwave in a desert.

So much of that entertainment comes from how golden the chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence still appears to be. Even after all these years, their rapport with each other rarely fails to light up the screen, as they work great off each other in both a comedic and action sense while also allowing themselves a few good moments of genuine friendship to shine though. Their characters’ personalities have been given a bit of a shake-up this time round, which might distract some longtime fans who just want to see them do their thing without compromise, but the actors’ energy and charismatic screen presence certainly hasn’t changed, and it’s a benefit to the film that their magnetic partnership is still so enjoyable to watch.

That’s really what Bad Boys: Ride or Die is, at the end of the day: enjoyable. Sure, it’s mindless and loud and doesn’t make a lick of sense, but none of these movies do, and so long as it’s executed in ways in which audiences can have as much fun as the cast and crew clearly did while making it, there’s little reason to complain. Luckily, this is very much a case where the stupidity is part of the escapist experience, and I can see a lot of audiences coming out to just lose themselves in the madness with little care for the logistics and specifics of this over-the-top world. Who knows, it might just be the bombastic piece of escapism that cinemas desperately need this summer.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Bad Boys: Ride or Die is another bombastic and borderline insane entry in the ongoing action franchise, one that is easily held together by the slick filmmaking style of Arbi and Fallah as well as the golden chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, both of which significantly help to make it an overall enjoyable piece of mindless escapism.

Four of of five stars

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