Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys: Ride or Die (2024)

‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’ movie review: Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are back in Miami

A pair of aging Miami cops overcome their own health issues to clear their captain’s name in Bad Boys: Ride or Die, the fourth installment in the Bad Boys franchise opening in cinemas worldwide this weekend. This one is a little more polished and satisfying in stylized action movie terms than the previous entry in the series, 2020’s Bad Boys for Life, making it the best in the franchise since the 1995 original from director Michael Bay (who shows up here in a fun cameo).

Bad Boys for Life stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as Miami police detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, who open the film in the midst of what first seems like a high-speed pursuit that nicely re-establishes their conflicting rat-a-tat personalities. In reality, the pair are headed to Mike’s wedding, which Marcus promptly makes all about himself by having a heart attack.

Marcus’ near-death experience gives him a new lease in life, which comes in handy after deceased Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano, returning through pre-recorded video messages) is accused of having worked with drug cartels. Not knowing who to trust, Mike and Marcus go underground to clear their former captain’s name — and their own.

Like the recent Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, Bad Boys: Ride or Die suffers from a serious case of protagonist overload, with no less than a dozen characters given their own little bite-sized storyline and a cut of the narrative, competing with Smith and Lawrence’s heroes for screen time.

Beyond the titular Bad Boys, there’s (deep breath) Mike’s estranged son Aretas (Jacob Scipio), who killed Captain Howard in the previous film but here has an arc of redemption; Marcus’ son-in-law Reggie (Dennis Greene), who gets a chance to deploy his military training to protect his family; Rhea Sheehorn as Howard’s daughter, a US Marshal who swears revenge on Aretas; Quinn Hemphill as Howard’s other daughter, who becomes a hostage; new Captain Rita Secada (Paola Núñez), investigating Howard’s past; Rita’s love interest and mayoral candidate Lockwood (Ioan Gruffudd), assisting in the investigation; Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens) and Dorn (Alexander Ludwig), the only Miami police officers Mike and Marcus can trust; and Mike and Marcus’ thinly-sketched wives (Melanie Liburd and Tasha Smith).

That’s not including the side characters that Mike and Marcus run into during the course of their investigation, including the reformed Fletcher (John Salley, returning from Bad Boys 2), gangbanger Manny (DJ Khaled, back from the previous film), and Tiffany Haddish as a stripper who has a thing for Mike.

There’s a villain in here, too, played by Eric Dane but so thinly sketched that his entire organization feels perfunctory. Like the antagonist in the recent Madame Web, Dane’s McGrath has no active criminal motivation: he only wants to prevent Mike and Marcus from uncovering his vague past misdeeds. It’s difficult to muster much enthusiasm in rooting against him, and his backstory only makes him more sympathetic.

Helping save Bad Boys: Ride or Die from its overstuffed narrative are directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (credited as Adil & Bilali), who helmed the previous film and give this one a greater sense of visual flair that recalls Bay’s work in the original movies. Contemporary Miami looks great here through copious use of drone photography, with night scenes drenched in neon Miami Vice pink & teal.

There’s a little more oomph to the action scenes in Bad Boys: Ride or Die that includes creative slo-motion camerawork (Marcus attempts to catch some flying Skittles in his mouth during a shootout), impressive stuntwork (the getaway in a flaming van is a wow), and over-the-top visuals, including climactic first-person-shooter sequences that swing the camera around just so you know Smith and Lawrence are behind the carnage.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die saves the best for last, with a big action set piece at the finale that takes place in an amusement park called Gatorland (not the actual Gatorland in Orlando), long abandoned but still haunted by predators including a giant albino alligator. It’s an memorable setting for action that gets impressively destroyed, culminating with a sea plane crashing into the premises.

While Bad Boys: Ride or Die could have cut back on its character count and given some more motivation to its villain, it offers fans of the franchise everything they could want, including plenty of engaging Smith-Lawrence camaraderie. Some slick and inventive filmmaking courtesy of Adil & Bilali tips its scales into solid-enough bid-budget blockbuster territory.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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