Bad Boys: Ride or Die Image

Bad Boys: Ride or Die

By Dan Lybarger | June 11, 2024

Throughout Bad Boys: Ride or Die, written by Chris Bremner and Will Beall and directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, I kept asking myself, can we get back to the part where things explode? Its two leads, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith, started out as a stand-up comic and a sitcom star, respectively. As such, it is reasonable to expect the latest installment in this action series to have some laughs to go with the mayhem. As it stands, it feels as if more thought went into how to obliterate huge chunks for Georgia (passing for Florida) than how the partnership between the suave, unflappable Mike Lowery (Will Smith) and the high-strung Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) can keep from getting as stale as four-year-old popcorn.

To give some credit to the screenwriters, this storyline has a few twists that could have resulted in some solid laughs and moments of genuine suspense. Having survived a bullet and reached 50, Mike is now married and experiencing panic attacks. Meanwhile, Marcus, despite eating a steady diet of junk food, has lived through a heart attack and now thinks he can’t die. Through a series of events, Marcus and Mike are framed for a crime they did not commit. Humorous bickering and quips easily fit into this equation. It is creative to reverse the roles from the other entries, but who needs creativity when you have pyrotechnics?

At least the centerpieces throughout Bad Boys: Ride Or Die are suitably spectacular. If you are going to stage a raid, don’t settle for mere gunplay. It’s delightful that the filmmakers have embraced the excess and incorporated drones, helicopters, diving equipment, bombs, cool computer screens, and an abandoned amusement park. Oh, I almost forgot the alligators. The finale is the sort of thing that makes me wish for a cinematic highlights reel or for YouTube to be maximized for auditoriums. There isn’t much story before the shooting starts, so watching the stuff that doesn’t blow up adds nothing.

“…Marcus and Mike are framed for a crime they did not commit.”

Bremner and Beall have a sense of what might be funny or what might keep this from running into the ground, but they don’t seem terribly interested in giving their performers more than one-note roles. When things stop to explain how Mike and Marcus got to X point, momentum grinds to a halt. Hearing Smith and Lawrence bicker about whether souls have genitals might have been funny, but only manages to make eyes roll.

I felt like starting a psychic hotline when I correctly guessed who one of the villains would be the moment they were introduced. Nobody involved in Bad Boys: Ride or Die knows how to incorporate misdirection effectively. Furthermore, it would have been rewarding if the female characters had more depth. What sort of woman would marry the commitment-phobic Mike? What positive traits does Marcus have that make him a good father and husband?

The supporting cast has less to work with than the leads, which is sad. Tiffany Haddish and Joe Pantoliano barely get a chance to register. Rhea Seehorn is in this, but Better Call Saul runs half the length, has more laughs and requires more range from her. Even more embarrassing is that the original director Michael Bay has a cameo that reminds viewers that he can even sometimes concentrate long enough to deliver one character scene that in theory could work.

Just because a movie involves volatile hardware doesn’t mean it should take a viewer’s heart or brain for granted. Part of the reason Unstoppable was fun and suspenseful was that the director, the late Tony Scott, and screenwriter Mark Bomback spent time at a railyard and created people who could realistically stop a runaway train. Despite Bad Boys: Ride or Die being the fourth entry, the cops don’t feel realistic and aren’t even fun anymore. Even bad boys are entitled to better stories.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die (2024)

Directed: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah

Written: Chris Bremner, Will Beall

Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, etc.

Movie score: 4/10

Bad Boys: Ride or Die Image

"…even bad boys are entitled to better stories."

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