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Bad Boys: Ride or Die Helps Cement Bad Boys Among the Best Action-Comedy Franchises

Bad Boys: Ride of Die
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

There was a real missed opportunity in not being able to call the fourth installment in the Bad Boys franchise, Bad Boys 4 Life; a title already used for its predecessor. Aside from that, Bad Boys: Ride of Die delivers in every way. Perhaps everyone involved wasn’t sure they would be making another one, but to the benefit of fans, they did, and it’s fantastic. Miami Detectives, Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), are thrust back into action as they try to clear the name of their fallen Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano), and the duo’s chemistry is just as undeniable as it was 30 years ago. 

Bad Boys is one of the few franchises that, while being four films deep, still feels like the original. It’s hard to put your finger on what exactly it is, but often when a lot of time has passed, or you change directors, the result can feel like an imitation of what came before rather than a seamless continuation. Thankfully this movie is the latter, and while it’s aided by its familiar score, and well executed callbacks, none of that would stand up if not for the performances of Smith and Lawrence. The pair has had perfect comedic timing from the very start and if anything, it’s only grown more effortless as they have aged.

Writers Chris Bremner and Will Beall clearly understand the tone of the franchise. While they pull from everything that’s worked in the past; they aren’t afraid to flip things on their head a bit to allow Smith and Lawrence to play with something new. Mike has always been the reckless one, but after his past brought violent consequences, he feels the immense weight of that. Now as a married man, and the weight starts manifesting itself in the form of panic attacks. At the same time Marcus, always hyper aware of his own mortality, faces death and emerges with a new lease on life. Unfortunately, having a genuine belief that you can’t die because it’s “not your time,” can prove to be quite precarious when you’re constantly in a life-threatening situation. 

These shifts in behavior are mostly played for laughs, especially with Marcus, but the dynamic change at this point in the storytelling is such a fresh way to keep the characters evolving. The way these two men are always there for one another and know exactly what the other one needs in the moment perfectly leans into showing the power of their bond and friendship. Think Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner’s characters from The Town, without the bank robberies, and before things went bad. 

Unlike the other Bad Boys films, Ride or Die continues a narrative thread from Bad Boys For Life, directly continuing its story. It builds on those events, and even fixes some of the weaker elements of its predecessor, mostly regarding Mike and Armando (Jacob Scipio), and their relationship. The last movie took a big swing with a plot twist that felt a little soap opera adjacent, with the late revelation that Armando was Mike’s son.

Bad Boys For Life never really allowed the audience to reconcile the awful things Armando had done, most notably killing Captain Howard who had been an integral part of the franchise. With Ride or Die, they address that head on, in a way that feels authentic, and provides an added layer of emotional depth. 

Writers Chris Bremner and Will Beall delivered a script that touches on some interesting themes and ideas amongst the explosions and barrage of jokes and gunfire, and the director pair of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah made sure when the called for, the action lived up to the franchise’s well-earned expectations. From drones to first person shooter, whatever views will make the shot look the most dynamic, it’s captured. 

The main antagonist, McGrath (Eric Dane) is formulaic but menacing and believable. He’s given a two-minute backstory to somewhat explain his actions, and he along with his team are formidable enough to give Mike, Marcus and returning AMMO members Dorn (Alexander Ludwig) and Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens), plenty of close calls. Ludwig and Hudgens are great to see back, as is Paola Núñez, as Rita, now Captain. 

When the detectives get too close to discovering the truth about who’s setting Captain Howard up to take the fall for department ties to the Mexican cartel, and why, circumstances find them and Armando on the run together, being hunted both by unsavory criminals looking to cash in on a bounty orchestrated by McGrath, and by FBI Agent Judy Howard (Rhea Seehorn), the widow of Captain Howard, who understandably holds plenty of ill will towards Armando. 

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer is a genius and as much a staple of the franchise as its stars, so even when it passed on from Michael Bay, he made sure it was in good hands, and had whatever was required to keep it on par with what’s come before. While it doesn’t overwhelm with set pieces, it has two very elaborate ones, with a great looking plane crash fight sequence, and its climactic showdown at an abandoned alligator themed amusement park – because Florida. Though there is plenty of plot armor, and timely conveniences, it remains more grounded than most action franchises – looking at you Fast and Furious. 

Fun cameos have become a staple of these movies, and that doesn’t change. Some work well enough to provide a laugh, and at least one should have been left on the cutting room floor. Tiffany Haddish makes a brief appearance as a strip club owner that Mike thinks might help them with supplies. There was probably a place for her to step into this world, but this wasn’t it. The sequence does nothing to advance the story, it’s just crude and awkward, a rare misstep when nearly everything else works so well. 

It cannot be stated enough just how much this film delivers in every way for fans. Other than a Téa Leoni cameo, but maybe that’s asking for too much. Its action-packed, hilarious, and never misses an opportunity to hit the satisfying note, whether you see it coming or it surprises you. There were two sequences in this movie that had the audience in an uproar, cheering in unison, something you hear about but rarely experience much anymore. It happened, and it’s very earned. One of them gives a character we have seen grow in the background an unbelievably awesome moment in the spotlight, and the other manages to address some of the controversy that has followed Smith since his incident with Chris Rock.

This movie, more so than the others, excels because of Lawrence. He has to carry this nonchalant attitude throughout and sell some of the more difficult elements that could be borderline silly if not played correctly. Also, during scenes where he could be viewed as a third wheel to the dynamic happening between Mike and Armando, he is the glue that comedically inserts himself, and keeps things together. It’s just an exceptional performance by him.

Based on the early success of Bad Boys: Ride or Die, fans have proven they will still show up to the theaters to see characters that they grew up with and love, as long as it’s in a movie worthy of them returning. This one should be seen as a shining example of how fan service can be handled perfectly, and why those fans will always ride for these movies.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die is now playing in theaters nationwide.

Ben Murchison
Ben Murchison
Ben Murchison is a regular contributor for TV and Movies. He’s that guy that spends an hour in an IMDb black hole of research about every film and show he watches. Strongly believes Buffy the Vampire Slayer to be the best show to ever exist, and that Peaky Blinders needs more than 6 episodes per series. East Carolina grad, follow on Twitter and IG @bdmurchison.

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