Directed by: Adil & Bilall
Written by: Chris Bremner, Will Beall
Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Paola Nunez, Eric Dane, Ioan Gruffudd, Tiffany Haddish, Joe Pantoliano
Released: June 6, 2024
Grade: B-

Bad Boys: Ride or Die

From a creative/artistic point of view, there’s no reason for this film to exist.  The comedically adventurous lives of Miami Police Department detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett have already been fleshed out in three previous movies – the original released in 1995 and the latest in 2020 (Bad Boys for Life).  There’s not much on offer here in terms of action or character exposition and thus, it’s easy to see it as a cynical cash grab for the studio and its leading men.  It’s the first film Will Smith has shot since his infamous Oscars slap in March 2022 and for Martin Lawrence, it’s just his fourth film role in the past decade.  Both could use a hit.

The plot makes little sense.  Much-loved leader Captain Howard (Pantoliano) was killed in the last instalment, but the writers find a way to weave him into the narrative.  Prior to his death, the captain was investigating crooked cops who were working in cahoots with powerful drug cartels.  These dodgy cops are now trying to cover their tracks (using brutal force) while Lowrey and Burnett, who were left a series of oddly cryptic clues by their former boss, are trying to identify and stop them.  There’s computer hacking, money laundering, gun fights, bounties, alligators… with no trace of realism or accountability.

Is the film still worth your time and money?  Maybe.  While my interest levels were low on entering the theatre, the material is elevated by the comedic chemistry between Smith and Lawrence.  I’m not sure we needed all the added guff about Mike’s anxiety issues and Marcus’s heart problems (the opening wedding stuff is also a snooze) but when placed in perilous situations, they find a way to make audiences laugh.  In keeping with previous outings, Lawrence gets the best of the material with a near-death, spiritual awakening serving as the catalyst for several decent jokes.

The supporting players aren’t too bad either with several of them reprising their roles from the last movie.  Whether they be heroic or villainous, each gets their own mini-subplot which is easy to follow and invest in.  The normally reliable Tiffany Haddish is the exception in a tiny, wasted cameo (a shame they didn’t give her more to do).  While previous viewing isn’t essential, it will help if you’ve seen Bad Boys for Life in understanding the existing connections between returning characters.

Several action scenes look too much like a computer game (particularly the finale) but if you’re in the mood for laughs above all else, Bad Boys: Ride or Die may unexpectedly satisfy.