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BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE

I Sony Pictures Canada I June 7, 2024 I 115 mins. I

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70%

* As of 6/06/24

Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Paola Nuñez, Eric Dane, Ioan Gruffudd, Jacob Scipio, Melanie Liburd

Directed By: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah

Miami police officers Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are still cleaning the streets of bad guys and putting them behind bars.

When their former captain is posthumously accused of being corrupt and in collusion with drug cartels, they have to work to clear his name. During their investigation, they discover they're being framed themselves and have to go on the run.

REVIEW BY: Kurt Morrison

RATING 3.5 out of 5

In a Hollywood movie studio world, where reboots are a dime a dozen, I think the longevity of the Bad Boys franchise is a testament to how fun these films are, never meddling with the formula that makes this franchise not only a box office success, but also a continual tent-pole action event. And with 2020’s Bad Boys for Life being the highest grossing film of that pandemic year, with a whopping $426.5 million dollar worldwide box office tally right before COVID shut us down, it’s exciting to have Will Smith and Martin Lawrence back as our beloved Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett after a 4 year hiatus.

Following the events of Bad Boys For Life, we find Smith’s Mike Lowery a changed man - newly married with a different outlook on life. His near death experience and revelation that he has a son, played again by Jacob Scipio, seemed to have course corrected the man once known as ‘Bullet Proof Mike’. And as the film takes off, with lots of laughter, hijinks and reminiscing at Mike’s wedding, reality strikes as Lawrence’s Marcus suffers a heart attack.

 

Compared to the first two films in the series, the last entry really brought some gravitas and reality to the situations Marcus and Mike go through and this continues that trend. They are now in their 50’s, not as fast or as agile as they once were, and although that becomes a running jab of a joke between the two of them throughout the film, it's a bittersweet reminder for me as a viewer that I’ve grown up watching these guys. To quote Captain Howard from the previous film, “I don’t think you can call yourselves Bad Boys anymore, fellas”.

 

Following Marcus’ heart attack, the film presents its main antagonist and a pretty standard issue plot - a cartel banker and gun for hire, played by the very misused Eric Dane, has smeared the legacy of deceased friend of Marcus and Mike, Captain Howard - played once again by the legendary Joe Pantoliano. Hell bent on figuring out who is out to tarnish the Captain’s reputation even in death, Marcus and Mike uncover a web of lies and deceit within Miami Metro P.D. that goes higher than they ever imagined. But in a turn of events, Marcus and Mike find themselves on the wrong side of the law, being hunted by the FBI, Miami P.D. and US Marshals after being framed for the prison breakout of Mike’s son, Armando (Scipio).

Admittedly, the films main plot points feel very recycled, as it takes aspects of other actioners like the Fast and Furious franchise, 48 hrs and Midnight Run and blends them together into a rather predictable mélange. Writers Chris Bremner and Will Beall are clearly kids of the 80s and 90s so there is a level of homage that is paid here to those films and that decade. But there is a very soap-opera-esque element that they continue into this film that was a clever and welcomed addition - that being the fact that Armando is the person who killed Captain Howard in the previous film. It creates a sense of discomfort throughout the entirety of the film for the trio, as we see Armando finally a free man after being in a maximum security prison and fighting for his life in what is EASILY the best action sequence of the entire film.

Considering the rest of the film feels very ‘copy and paste’, the complexity of both Mike and Marcus having to work together with Armando and put their pasts behind them was one of the highlights of the film. There is tension and distrust but a paternal instinct within Lowrey that he does not want to shake. The mixture of Lowrey and Armando trying for some sort of semblance of a relationship as Father and Son mixed with Marcus’ quick lip sarcasm and new found outlook on life after his heart attack gave me some serious laughs.

 

The big selling point of the film, and quite frankly the entire franchise, is the comedic chemistry between Smith and Lawrence. Always has been and always will be.

And in terms of the comedy, quite frankly, it's the movie's saving grace because neither Smith or Lawrence have missed a beat with each other. Their timing is still impeccable even 28 years later, and although some of the jokes did not land with quite the gut punch laugh as other entries, it is still a very entertaining and funny film.

Although still entertaining, sadly I felt like this is the weakest story of the four films in the franchise and was not invested like I have been in films prior. That too can be said about the comedy. It’s just not as funny as any of the last three entries. After seeing Bad Boys: Ride or Die on Monday night, I decided to go back and watch the second and third films again to see if I was wrong, and noticed a MAJOR tone down in this fourth film with the insult style comedy that Smith and Lawrence have always used as a backbone for laughs in this franchise. They’ve always relied on serious vulgarity and crude humor to bash each other, and I love every minute of it. But I think in today’s movie going world, with all types of comedy under a microscope, the writers and perhaps the directors may have decided to tone it down a few notches in order to not stir up some bad press or controversy. I am not saying the film isn’t funny but I have come to expect a certain level from Marcus and Mike and it was very absent in this film’s writing.

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Trust me, as much as the Bad Boys franchise is about Miami based car chases and action, at its heart is the sense of camaraderie between Marcus and Mike and their comedic back and forth. Their solidarity not just as characters but as friends off screen makes them so believable as this loveable and bickering duo, and directors Adil and Bilall understand that. Yes - the mixing in of the group aptly known as AMMO, featuring Paola Nunez, Vanessa Hudgens and Alexander Ludwig works, but it never takes away from the focus being on Mike and Marcus and their brotherhood.

For a film with a budget of $100 million, it's a great example once again that a studio doesn’t have to rob a bank in order to make a great action film. The fight choreography and the action sequences look phenomenal and are shot with a kinetic energy that looks fabulous to watch on an IMAX screen, once again displaying directors Adil and Bilall’s capabilities behind the camera. It is such a contrast from those Michael Bay entries with their sense of manic, uncontrollable chaos. But what it lacks in those Bay-isms, it makes up for in coherent filmmaking that looks polished as hell. LISTEN, I LOVE BAD BOYS 1 and 2, but even I can admit they are god awfully made films. Entertaining as hell!!! But complete train wrecks to rewatch.

The more I thought about Bad Boys: Ride or Die, the more I realized I had a good time with it. It’s a great compliment to all three entries that came before for, even if the stakes don’t feel as high, big or dangerous. Nevertheless, our heroes Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett will always hold a place in this action lover’s heart and still reminds us that these are some Bad Boys. I hope the movie going public is able to look past all the bullshit Will Smith has done in the last few years and make this movie a summer time hit, because I think the best is yet to come for this franchise, its writers, directors and most of all, its two leading men.

‘We ride together. We die together. Bad Boys For Life’

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