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Despite Shaky Beginning, Bad Boys: Ride or Die Is Worth the Trip

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star in Columbia Pictures BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE. Photo by: Frank Masi

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are back as Detectives Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett in Bad Boys: Ride or Die, the entertaining fourth installment of the long-running action franchise.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die opens with Mike (Smith) and Marcus (Lawrence) racing to Mike’s wedding, where he is going to marry Christine (Melanie Liburd), his physical therapist following his getting shot in the last film. At the wedding reception, Marcus has a heart attack and nearly dies, the closest Marcus has ever been to death despite being in countless shootouts throughout his years as a police officer. When he wakes up, Marcus has a euphoric, philosophical mindset because of the visions he saw when he almost died, and he claims he can’t die because it is not his time yet.

Meanwhile, Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano), who died in Mike’s arms in the previous film, is being framed for embezzling and taking money from cartels during his time working for the Miami P.D. A father figure to Mike and Marcus, the two start digging into who is responsible for this and end up getting accused of crimes they did not commit, which has them on the run from law enforcement with only a handful of people they can trust.

Will Smith stars in Columbia Pictures BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE. Photo by: Frank Masi
Will Smith stars in Columbia Pictures BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE. Photo by: Frank Masi

The first thirty minutes of Bad Boys: Ride or Die was rough and almost completely turned me off from the film, something I didn’t think was possible since the Bad Boys franchise is very near and dear to my heart. None of the jokes were landing, the action scenes weren’t very exciting, and I wasn’t sure where the film was going with its tone and plot. But once the plot got going and Mike and Marcus started investigating the Captain Howard framing, that’s when the film got cooking and turned into the Bad Boys movie we were used to. The events that take place in the first thirty minutes, most notably Marcus’s heart attack, barely matter in the plot. Marcus is told to take it easy following his heart attack, and then a few scenes later he is in a shootout with no repercussions or chasing after the villain’s henchmen without missing a step. As for Mike’s new wife, she’s barely a character and it felt like she was only added to the film for its climax.

What makes the first thirty minutes even more frustrating is that Bad Boys: Ride or Die is stuffed with characters, plots, and emotions. Besides the plot to prove their innocence and clear Captain Howard’s name, Mike is also suffering from panic attacks over his mortality and the guilt of his son (Jacob Scipio) killing Captain Howard. Mike’s relationship with his son, who went on a murdering spree in the last film and almost killed Mike along the way, is complicated but is barely explored. Captain Howard’s daughter (an under-utilized Rhea Seehorn), who is also a U.S. Marshall, wants to kill Mike’s son for killing her father. We also work more with AMMO, the high-tech team of officers introduced in the last film, and are introduced to new characters and villains, all of whom don’t get much development. I wish the first thirty minutes were utilized better to elevate some of these plots and add more emotional depth to the characters. It would have made for a bigger payoff at the end.

Martin Lawrence stars in Columbia Pictures BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE. Photo by: Frank Masi
Martin Lawrence stars in Columbia Pictures BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE. Photo by: Frank Masi

After the first thirty minutes, hough, Bad Boys: Ride or Die kicks into high gear as a high-octane action film with exhilarating shootouts and tons of comedy, mostly coming from Lawrence. The action scenes get crisper, longer, and more epic, with an insanely high body count and collateral damage. Adil and Bilali, who directed the previous film, Bad Boys for Life (which is really what this movie should have been called), once again bring their special style to the action scenes, and it couldn’t be further from Michael Bay’s on the first two films. Where Bay’s Bad Boys films featured brash, bold, relentless set pieces that thrived in chaos and mayhem and focused more on car chases and guns, Adil and Bilali’s Bad Boys films have a more modern look. They’re well-choreographed and filled with slick, brutal, bloodier kills that feature more hand-to-hand fighting and knives on top of guns and cars. The difference in action direction shows the changing of the action movie landscape. Action films today are different than the action films of twenty and thirty years ago, much like how Mike and Marcus in Bad Boys: Ride or Die are different than the Mike and Marcus from the Bad Boys’ films twenty and thirty years ago.

But despite Adil and Bilali’s visual sensibilities being vastly different from Bay’s, both directors know that the key to a good Bad Boys film is Smith and Lawrence. You are always rooting for Mike and Marcus and having been with them through four films, you feel like you are part of their family. It feels like the Bad Boys franchise may be coming to an end sooner rather than later, but Smith and Lawrence have done such a good job portraying Mike and Marcus that I would be interested in seeing a movie about the two of them retiring from the Miami P.D. and just hanging out living the retired life. Smith and Lawrence are the heart and soul of the Bad Boys franchise and it is their chemistry, love for each other, and understanding of the characters that keep Bad Boys: Ride or Die together even during its shakier parts.

Written by Kevin Wozniak

Kevin is a film critic and writer from the suburbs of Chicago. He is a member of the Chicago Indie Critics, Online Film & Television Association, and Internet Film Critics Society. He usually writes movie reviews and lists of Film Obsessive.

You can find more of Kevin's work at kevflix.com

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