Bad Boys: Ride or Die

Bad Boys: Ride or Die Review: Chemistry Never Dies

For close to 30 years the Bad Boys franchise has remained a cultural landmark for those of us who rarely saw ourselves reflected in the buddy cop genre during our youth. While films like In the Heat of the Night, Beverly Hills Cop, and Lethal Weapon were all iconic in their own way, they were ripples in a vast ocean. These films centred around odd couple pairings where the Black character was either the fish out of water due to his race; or the aging vet paired with the reckless young buck.

1995’s Bad Boys was different. It was a rare time when two Black cops were presented as equals who were not just excellent at their jobs but also genuine friends. Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) shared a brotherly bond that felt like we had known them for years.

Decades later, this chemistry and sense of intimacy still shine through in Bad Boys: Ride or Die, even when the men themselves are showing their age.

Mike is finally putting his 40-plus years of bachelorhood behind him by marrying his physical therapist, Christine (Melanie Liburd). Marcus, recovering from a near-death experience after suffering a heart attack, finds himself reflecting on mortality and the universe at large. Father Time has not only caught up to both men but also the franchise.

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This fourth installment feels more like a quilt made from patches of the past rather than a tightly woven work made from fresh yarn. Directors Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah, returning after helming Bad Boys for Life, fill the film with numerous references and cameos from the previous films that will delight longtime fans of the franchise. Remixing several iconic moments, take Marcus saving Mike from being hit by a car on the highway for example, which is followed by them rising in slow motion, Bad Boys: Ride or Die sails on the river of nostalgia.

Unfortunately, the film hits some rough waters when it attempts to navigate the present. The loosely structured plot, which feels stitched together with beats from other icon blockbusters like The Fugitive, finds the pair, along with Marcus’s son (Jacob Scipio), on the run from the FBI and U.S. Marshalls.

After the deceased Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) is labelled as a dirty cop, when cartel money is traced back to his account, Mike and Marcus set out to clear his good name. Little do they know that, prior to his death, the captain was investigating corruption within the police force. What he found ruffled the feathers of those, such as the ruthless James McGrath (Eric Dane), who will do anything to ensure that the evidence does not see the light of day.

As Mike and Marcus attempt to stay one step ahead of their pursuers, by seeking help from their Ammo colleagues (Paola Núñez, Vanessa Hudgens, and Alexander Ludwig) and shady contacts (Tiffany Haddish, John Salley), Arbi & Fallah sprinkle in several thrilling action set pieces. While the plot heavy nature of Bad Boys for Life seemed to stifle the duo’s stylish flair, the director’s feel more alive here. Whether orchestrating a mid-air sabotage on a helicopter, a prison yard assassination attempt, or an elaborate shootout at an abandoned alligator theme park, the action beats feature a good mixture of spectacle and humour.

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It is in the comedic moments where Bad Boys: Ride or Die truly finds its salvation. As the scales are tipped heavily in favour of nostalgia, and the predictable plot take several implausible leaps, it helps that the film fully embraces its sillier side. Easily the funniest film of the sequels, nothing tops the role swapping original, Ride or Die really excels when it allows Marcus to take the comedic wheel.

Regardless of whether turning his Wakanda-esque journey into the afterlife into a perceived sense of invincibility, or offering up unfiltered fatherly advice, Marcus is delightful in every scene. As he did with the previous films, Lawrence once again reminds viewers why he is a comedy legend who can shine in any medium (e.g. standup, sitcom, film, etc). Watching Lawrence and Smith banter about everything from past lives to who gets to be the chef at the BBQ is just as entertaining now as their conversations were 29 years ago.

The only one who comes close to upstaging the men’s comedic magic is fan favourite Reggie (Dennis Greene), who gets a scene-stealing moment for the ages.

While time has clearly passed and life has changed for Mike and Marcus, the latter’s wife is now played by Tasha Smith rather than Theresa Randle, and their adventures are not as tightly constructed as they once were, the core friendship remains the same. An entertaining ride, Bad Boys: Ride or Die feels like a fitting send off for someone who is not quite ready to retire. The film works best when reminding viewers of the good times that were had in the past, while showing that, for this iconic duo, chemistry never dies.

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Bad Boys: Ride or Die opens in theatres on June 7.



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