‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’ Review: Still Ridin’ Together

Aaron Neuwirth reviews Bad Boys: Ride or Die, the fourth entry in the action-packed buddy cop franchise, featuring Martin Lawrence and Will Smith still delivering the fun as bantering Miami detectives, silly as it can be at times.
User Rating: 6

Detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett are back and in record time. The way things were going, after the time between Bad Boys (1995), Bad Boys II (2003), and Bad Boys for Life (2020), it seemed plausible that we wouldn’t be watching Bad Boys: Ride or Die until 2045, at which time Martin Lawrence would look about as old as he did at the end of Life. But no, given the surprisingly high success (and quality) of that third film, the powers that be moved a lot quicker, and here we are with another entry in the enduring buddy cop franchise. Does it deliver what one hopes from the continued teaming of Lawrence and Will Smith? Pretty much. Full of action, jokes, and over-the-top melodrama, the Bad Boys films have rarely skirted greatness, but they keep providing solid entertainment, for better or worse.

This time around, both Mike (Smith) and Marcus (Lawrence) continue facing up to becoming a bit too old to be bad boys, running and gunning to stop bad guys, but a new wrinkle emerges. Thanks to some obvious corruption coming from somewhere on the inside, the now-deceased Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano, who still manages to appear a few times in this film) is accused of having ties to the cartels. Not wanting to back down from being able to prove their former Captain’s innocence, Mike and Marcus eventually find themselves on the run as well. However, they’ll still have help from a few trusted cops (a returning Paola Núñez, Vanessa Hudgens, and Alexander Ludwig), as well as Mike’s estranged criminal son (Jacob Scipio).

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Here’s the thing – Bad Boys: Ride or Die tries to accel at being three types of movies but only really succeeds at two. It’s a solid action flick, complete with creative set pieces, tricky stunts, and numerous explosions. The film also serves up the comedy, with Smith and Lawrence still making for a fun duo together, along with other various sparring partners. However, when aiming to be a crime drama, the movie isn’t exactly taking notes from James Ellroy.

That’s the tricky thing about franchises like this. There are only so many options regarding what kinds of story ideas will pay off in these movies. It should be noted that Bad Boys: Ride or Die is doing all it can to drift off the fumes of the previous film, which means expanding on ideas set up the last time around. With an increased supporting cast, this film takes the opportunity to utilize callbacks in ways that don’t feel obnoxious and get away with things like keeping Joey Pants around for a bit more of the good times he knows how to deliver.

However, this is still a film that practically highlights its various twists and turns in big, bold letters and has little room for subversion when addressing the notion of corrupt officials having an effect on two Black Miami cops. Granted, I’m not looking for any level of sublime social commentary when it comes to a Bad Boys movie, but there’s little else to lock into despite the film taking time to slow things down on occasion and have the boys reflect.

We have Mike dealing with panic attacks concerning the family he has formed. Marcus has a near-death experience early on that puts him in an enlightened position, but that’s only ever used for laughs. Part of what made Bad Boys for Life successful was the conscious effort to address how these guys have changed since the previous film and their next steps. This time around, it’s largely just another adventure looking to keep the status quo together.

Of course, how much does that matter when so much of what keeps this enterprise going are the elaborate gunfights that occur while Mike and Marcus spit out fiery banter at each other? Bad Boys: Ride or Die still has plenty of that, and it’s still quite a joy. Directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (credited as Adil & Bilall) have found a rhythm for putting these movies together, as the action and editing continue to feel quite adventurous. Director Michael Bay is still one of a kind, and his work on the first two (particularly Bad Boys II), like it or hate it, was striving to be maximalist stylized action filmmaking for Hollywood (plus an aggressive level of cruelty). Adil & Bilall have taken that mantra (minus the cruelty) and continue finding exciting approaches to their action scenes.

In Ride or Die, rapid drone photography is used in a lot of creative ways. Cameras are strapped to the sides of guns in a few instances. The geography of a scene, in general, is communicated quite well. In an age when John Wick is the top dog when it comes to cleverly choreographed action, I’m not going to fault Bad Boys for aiming to sit with some of the best, even if it can only do so much to measure up. With that said, there are also many silly sequences, including the location of the final shootout, which introduces …an animal factor that will no doubt come into play. Still, it’s a Bad Boys film, and they do seemingly want to keep rubbing up against the wall of implausibility just to know they can get away with it.

This is where the comedy and the familiarity come into play. Smith and Lawrence still clearly relish playing these roles and playing off each other. Lawrence’s family life is a bit of a mess (Tasha Smith replaces Theresa Randle as Marcus’ wife, following the three previous films), but the wonderful find that is Dennis Greene’s Reggie has a payoff that everyone will cheer for. There’s also Scipio’s efforts to work as Smith’s son, which I will argue goes down better than Jason Statham suddenly being a conflicted good guy in the latter Fast & Furious movies after being introduced by murdering a hospital in Furious 7. Otherwise, it is nice to see this set of well-intentioned people interacting with one another.

Meanwhile, Eric Dane plays the villainous threat here and is decent enough. This is not exactly a series built around its impressive rogue’s gallery, so as far as villains-of-the-week go, he’s compelling enough and looks mean. He’s also humorously surrounded by giant henchmen who still have to do various tasks involving sitting and typing or spouting off a lot of tech jargon. Suffice it to say, the bad guys are disposable, but in the realm of providing threats for Mike and Marcus, it’s fun seeing the eventual payoffs their bouts lead to (even if nothing has still managed to top This).

Am I willing to spend more time with the Bad Boys, should the opportunity arise? Sure. They are hitting at a good enough level to satisfy me, and providing the directors enough room to experiment and have fun building out cool ways to keep the action exciting. The Jerry Bruckheimer of it all means the money is getting put to good use (this film has colors and character actors all over it), so that’s keeping the 90s summer blockbuster aspect of it all alive and well. Most importantly, I can’t resist the joy of Martin and Will palling around together, making each other and the audience laugh in the process. There is, no doubt, plenty of “dumb” in this movie, but in the realm of summer action comedies, it’s doing all it needs to hit its targets, so whatcha gonna do?

Bad Boys: Ride or Die opens in theaters and IMAX on June 7, 2024.

Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the African American Film Critics Association, the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at Variety, We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Firstshowing.net, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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