Review: ‘Bad Boys: Ride Or Die’

Will Smith And Martin Lawrence Aren't Ready To Hang It Up Just Yet

Let’s be honest: there isn’t much to add about Bad Boys: Ride or Die that hasn’t been said about the other films in the long-running buddy cop franchise. Hell, I could probably just re-post my review of 2020’s revival Bad Boys for Life (I still marvel that title wasn’t reserved for the actual fourth movie) and nobody would blink an eye. But this one is interesting for the fact that it nearly didn’t happen and was delayed significantly when Will Smith decided to lay the smackdown on Chris Rock, thus becoming untouchable for a while in Hollywood. But the film is here in all of its formulaic blockbuster glory; Martin Lawrence is happy to get another paycheck and a dash of relevance again, and Smith…well, are we sure he didn’t write the script with his own fragile public image in mind?

I say that because Smith’s supercop Mike Lowery is given an utterly ridiculous, humanizing trait: panic attacks that emerge out of nowhere when convenient to the plot. Even worse, there’s a moment in the film that actually recalls Smith’s infamous slap, a tone deaf scene that probably should’ve been left on the cutting room floor.  Otherwise, it’s business as usual for Bad Boys: Ride or Die, an entertaining, over-the-top mish-mash of explosions, gunfire, and heart attack humor.

Mike has finally settled down, gotten married to the beautiful physical therapist Christine (Melanie Liburd), and now all he has to do is keep his buddy and partner Marcus from eating himself to death. Lawrence’s Marcus, after an embarrassing toast at Mike’s wedding, suffers a heart attack and is put on a strict no salt/no sugar diet, which provides the vast bulk of the action-comedy’s humor as he woofs down convenience store hot dogs, Skittles, and has a near orgasmic experience under a soda waterfall. This stuff is corny but still engaging because Smith and Lawrence are both funny guys, and have embodied these characters for nearly 30 years. They know them inside and out, even when they are being more ridiculous than usual. Did I mention that Marcus believes he’s invulnerable because he had a Black Panther-esque vision of the late Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) telling him he can’t die?

The convoluted plot actually picks up from Howard’s assassination in the last movie, and tacks on a vast conspiracy involving…something? I think drugs? A cartel led by that Grey’s Anatomy dude Eric Dane posthumously sets up Howard as a corrupt cop. Well, Mike and Marcus aren’t letting it go down like that. Also involved is Mike’s estranged narco son, Armando, the man who actually killed Howard. And because he’s in the mix, so is Howard’s daughter, U.S. Marshall Judy Howard (Rhea Seehorn), who both wants to clear her father’s name and get vengeance on Armando, making things awkward as Mike tries to protect his boy, even fleeing with him when they become fugitives from the law.

While Mike and Marcus must be nearing retirement age at this point, the Bad Boys franchise continues to grow around them, resembling a Fast & Furious-style “family” ensemble. This is not a coincidence, I’m sure. Numerous characters return from past films, including Vanessa Hudgens and Alexander Ludwig as AMMO members Kelly and Dorn, plus Mike’s ex-turned-police captain Rita Secada (Paola Núñez), along with Tiffany Haddish, DJ Khaled, and more who are known to these Miami streets. And then there’s a kick-ass spotlight moment for Marcus’ son-in-law and U.S. Marine Reggie McDonald (Dennis Greene). The character has always been background, but now it’s like he’s being set up for a much bigger part in future movies.

Returning directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah continue to carry the torch passed to them by Michael Bay. Pretty sure it’s an exploding torch that will go up like a fireball. These two have been the perfect stewards of these movies, delivering the unbridled violence and comic spectacles that fans are eager for. While Bad Boys: Ride or Die is less insane in some respects, Arbi and Fallah push things further in other ways, like a weird video game-style first-person-shooter sequence during the film’s biggest action setpiece.

As long as Smith and Lawrence want to, they could probably make Bad Boys movies forever. The genuine enthusiasm they have for these films and the fans who continue to support them is infectious and obvious in every frame. The bad jokes, the camaraderie, the shootouts, the car chases, the sudden displays of heart that take you by surprise. It’s not subtle, but then nobody goes to Bad Boys: Ride or Die expecting finesse. They’d rather subtlety be blown out of the cockpit of an exploding airplane right into the gut of a hungry alligator. And that’s exactly what they can count on because the formula works and you’d have to be a very bad boy to mess with it.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die is in theaters now.