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'Bad Boys: Ride or Die' Review

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June 4, 2024
Hunter Friesen
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It may seem like another lifetime ago, but we’re only four years removed from the third entry in the now long-running Bad Boys series, Bad Boys for Life, being the highest-grossing movie at the domestic box office. Of course, that year happened to be 2020, so more than a few asterisks should be applied to that record, especially since 1917 and Jumanji: The Next Level were not that far behind in the rankings. But the film’s lucky-as-hell January release date is not the only credit it should be given, as Michael Bay replacements, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, made the smart choice of dumping out the racist jokes and nihilism for coherent storytelling and bearable action. In other words, they actually made this franchise fun to watch.

So where does your sequel go when the previous entry had the benefit of being able to shake everything up? Not much of anywhere it turns out, as Ride or Die pretty much peddles more of the same from the Bad Boys for Life. That’s not a bad thing considering the very real alternate reality we could have lived in where Bay kept digging this franchise into the ground, à la his Transformers pentalogy. We’ve been here and done this before, so there’s not much use in getting all worked up.

The attempt at uniqueness in this fourth entry comes from our main character’s ages. The thoughts of mortality are starting to creep into the psyches of Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), as the now AARP-qualified detectives are slowly being physically and mentally edged out of the game. Bad Boys for Life may have toyed with these ideas through obvious Gen-Z mockery in the form of the up-and-coming AMMO squad (all of them returning for this sequel), but this entry is where the pedal really hits the medal.

For starters, Mike is transforming from a boy to a man by marrying Christine (Melanie Liburd), with Marcus suffering cardiac arrest on their wedding dancefloor. A new lease on life puts some perspective on Marcus, almost adopting a new zen-like “go with the flow” identity. There’s also Mike’s son Armando (Jacob Scipio) still in prison after the events of the last movie. He gets brought back into the fold once the deceased Captain Howard is framed for corruption by some no-good goons that he can identify.

Even though Michael Bay is out of the director’s chair, this is still a Jerry Bruckheimer production, which means the plot will be generic and the action will go boom. The bad guys may be hiding in plain sight to our characters, but we as the audience can spot them from a mile away, especially when they make vague speeches about rectifying the past and doing stuff for the greater good of the country (Hot Fuzz just keeps getting more relevant by the day). All that really matters is that their faces and demeanor make it super satisfying when they get punched, or, in this case, shot in the head. The carnage is quite high and gruesome, with limbs and skulls splitting from bullets and throats getting slashed on multiple occasions.

Adil and Billal still keep everything flowing with jittering energy, almost like a kid hopped up on candy, a craving Marcus struggles to control after his operation. A drone camera becomes the director’s best friend during the firefights, ducking and dodging through smoke and a hail of bullets. A first-person POV is sometimes employed, with the camera swapping bodies at a moment’s notice.

The giddiness of the production doesn’t always match the tone of the story. I can only take a scene where a bad guy forces someone to commit suicide so seriously when it’s immediately followed by a Fast & Furious montage of the finest bikinis in Miami. Smith and Lawrence do better with the balance, both of them never showing a single hint of losing a step after inhabiting these roles for almost three decades. The film grinds to a halt on several occasions for them to just stand around and bicker, but their unmatched chemistry makes it all tolerable. The script may start hinting at the end of the road for these characters, but everyone involved still has enough left in the tank for a few more rounds.

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