Bad Boys: Ride or Die – Film Review

It’s been a long road for Miami Police Department cops Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence). Partners for over 3 decades, they have taken down some of Miami’s biggest criminals with explosive style.

For ladies’ man Mike, things are about to change with his marriage to his new love Christine (Melanie Liburd). At the wedding, the overweight Marcus has a heart attack, leading to a positive change to his outlook on life but also to more reckless behaviour. Now in recovery, it’s smooth sailing for the two boys who’ve finally grown up to be family men. But their world is shocked as their late mentor and former Captain, Conrad Howard (Joe Pantoliano) has his memory besmirched by accusations of corruption.

This is an obvious frame up job to Mike and Marcus, but nobody else believes them. As new villain, James McGrath (Eric Dane) looms, the two don’t know who to trust. Desperate, they turn to Mike‘s estranged son Armando (Jacob Scipio) the very cartel assassin who killed Conrad years ago! Soon, the three are on the run themselves being hunted down by US Marshall Judy Howard (Rhea Seehorn), Conrad‘s daughter who is out for revenge.

Bad Boys first blasted onto silver screens in 1995 marking the debut of the one and only Michael Bay. An ambitious sequel followed in 2003 when both Bay and Smith were at the peak of their fame and it showed (you will never see another mature action film as big as Bad Boys 2). But for one reason or another, it would be a whopping 17 years until Bad Boys for Life released in 2020. Despite the lower budget, time gap and the lack of Michael Bay, this third film still reached massive success, with new directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah achieving the franchise’s most profitable instalment thus far.

I absolutely adore the Bad Boys films and consider the first two to be among Michael Bay‘s most satisfying outings. While I was disappointed he didn’t return to the director’s chair, Adil and Bilali were up to the task. With Bad Boys for Life they reinvented the series somewhat and Bad Boys: Ride or Die is the continuation of that new flavour.

Far from simply emulating Bay‘s signature over the top style, the duo directors continue to leave their own mark on the series with stylish camera angles and videogame inspired shootouts. But the two never quite elevate the material to the bombastic levels I had hoped for. The editing in particular can come off as sloppy. Still, there are several action set pieces sure to put a smile on the face of fans.

A definite shortcoming is the film’s weak script. The first half of Bad Boys: Ride or Die is surprisingly devoid of action rather setting up subplots which are then forgotten. There are also twists which you will see coming a mile away.

Although there are some nice callbacks to the earlier films with cameos from memorable characters and a particularly great sequence involving Marcus‘ monotone son-in-law Reggie (Dennis Greene), surprisingly, little is done with this Bad Boys: Ride or Die’s original characters or plot. This leads to Rhea Seehorn‘s character of US Marshall Agent Judy Howard feeling more like an afterthought and Eric Dane’s James McGrath being undoubtedly the weakest antagonist of the entire series to date.

Thankfully, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence still share great chemistry on screen together with their comedic timing and entertain exchange which has always made them such a joy to watch. However, this is mostly due to the charisma of the two performers and their perfect casting all those years ago. Unfortunately, many of the film’s gags fall flat and you can see the on-screen odd couple straining to carry such lifeless material to the finish line.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die fails to capitalise on the golden opportunity made from the success of previous films in the franchise. It’s a serviceable instalment that is still enjoyable, but far from the genre defining spectacle that Bad Boys 2 gave us. Regardless, Will Smith looks like he’s barely aged in 30 years and together with Martin Laurence, the two are great and still in top form.

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