Bad Boys: Ride or Die

  • 15 Jun - 21 Jun, 2024
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

No one is accusing the writers of Bad Boys: Ride or Die of using A.I., a touchy subject in Hollywood these days. But if a computer had written this blockbuster sequel, it wouldn’t turn out much different.

Serving as a more direct sequel to 2020’s Bad Boys for Life than people might expect, Ride or Die checks all the boxes of a movie like this in a way that feels depressingly half-hearted, afraid to do anything new or creative. It admittedly comes to life in spurts primarily through its hyperkinetic photography and editing. Still, it lacks enough spontaneity or ingenuity, completely content to go through the motions by taking as few risks as possible. It turns out that there was a third option: Ride, Die, or Tread Water.

Almost everything in Ride or Die aggressively mirrors something in the last film, from the nausea-inducing drive through Miami that opens each installment to a close encounter with the Grim Reaper for one of the beloved characters. The previous film saw Mike Lowery (Will Smith) getting shot on South Beach, while this one gets going with Marcus Miles (Martin Lawrence) having a heart attack at Mike’s wedding to Christine (Melanie Liburd). While the attempted murder in the third film started a narrative about friendship and making the most of another chance at life, this one is used for a bit goofier purpose as Marcus believes he’s now basically immortal. After all, while he was near death, the ghost of Captain Conrad Howard (Joe Pantoliano) told him that it wasn’t his time – so now he can run through traffic, even though his wife and work life partner won’t let him eat Skittles anymore.

It's not a Bad Boys movie if the heroes aren’t pushing back against the system, which includes in this film a potential future Miami mayor named Lockwood (Ioan Gruffudd), who is romantic partners with Mike’s ex and the new Captain, Rita Secada (Paola Nunez). It also turns out that Captain Howard’s daughter Judy (Rhea Seehorn) is a US Marshall, and her daughter Callie (Quinn Hemphill) joins the action largely to be another eventual damsel-in-distress. A cast that’s way too big also includes Tasha Smith as Marcus’s wife Theresa (a recasting from Theresa Randle), the return of Vanessa Hudgens & Alexander Ludwig, and a bunch of random cameos, some of which are inspired, some of which are again, echoes of things done better in previous films.

Of course, a Bad Boys movie is about the leads – the chemistry between Smith and Lawrence has always been at the heart of why people love these movies. Much of the charm of the 2020 flick was seeing how they hadn’t lost a step in that department despite 17 years between flicks. Bluntly, it’s just not as tight here, with a lot of jokes in the first half falling flat and so much of the material that’s supposed to read as dramatic feeling shallow and overly familiar, making for a film that's shorter than the last one but feels notably longer because of its clunky flow. Sure, no one comes to a Bad Boys for depth, but writers Chris Bremner and Will Beall can't find the right voice. This crops up most notably in the way they keep peppering in more complex ideas like rampant corruption and even their villain's radicalisation through torture, only to do precisely nothing with it. If you’re going to be goofy and dumb, lean into it – don’t casually bring up how 9/11 changed the world.

To be fair, directors Adil and Bilall know how to deliver in a few action set-pieces wherein their obsession with drone photography gets to be the film's real star. Every shootout features a circling drone camera view of the action, spinning around the room in a manner that gives the movie most of its momentum. Sure, some of it may be designed to hide that Smith and Lawrence can’t exactly pull off John Wick-esque choreography at this point, but there’s a chaotic fluidity to the action that’s the film’s greatest strength. It’s flashy and stylish and keeps the viewer’s eye bouncing around the frame to take it all in.

Bad Boys for Life had the element of surprise, a much-delayed sequel that blended nostalgia and modern action filmmaking techniques to satisfy viewers just before the pandemic. It’s understandable why the team behind Ride or Die chose to run it back again instead of taking risks and building on what worked about that comeback with something new. Financially understandable doesn't make it good. Even A.I. can tell you that.