‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’ is a familiar, formulaic trip

“Bad Boys: Ride or Die” (2024) – “I need this.  Bad Boys, one last time.” – Mike Lowrey (Will Smith)

Mike Lowrey says the above declaration to his long-time detective lieutenant partner, Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), in the third “Bad Boys” film, “Bad Boys for Life” (2020), 17 years after “Bad Boys II” (2003). 

Promises, promises. 

Mike meant to say, “I need this.  Bad Boys, one last time before the next time.”

Mike and Marcus are back for another buddy-cop action comedy, “Bad Boys: Ride or Die”, where again, as the film opens, Marcus feels sick due to Mike’s driving.  Potential vomit aside, this series looks more and more like the “Fast and Furious” franchise, which, depending on your perspective, can be a good or bad thing.

Mike and Marcus continue to work with Advanced Miami Metro Operations (AMMO) for tech, firearms, and man-and-woman-power support.  Our dynamic duo is part of a larger team, and the word, family, has never been more prominent in this series than in the movie’s fourth installment. 

Marcus and his married family-man status versus Mike’s bachelordom was always a thread lifting moods and offering carefree banter in small spaces between the otherwise constant arrays of bullets, dead bodies, and drug dealers.  In fact, Marcus touts in “Life”, “Don’t you know that family is all that matters.” 

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) famously quotes “family” in the “Fast and Furious” movies even though a majority of the team are friends.  “Bad Boys” embraces this concept.  In “Ride or Die”, Mike finally gets married very early in the first act, and relatives – through blood or marriage – are prominent throughout the movie. 

Fans of both big-screen juggernauts will most likely enjoy “Ride or Die”, as Smith and Lawrence continue to embrace their BFF-alter-ego-chemistry, and after a couple of initial uncertain moments in the first act, Smith’s star power and charisma return to the movies, at least in my view.  Welcome back, and directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah also return (after “Life”) to orchestrate Mike and Marcus’ trek into combatting dastardly disarray and diving into bombastic bloodshed. 

Both comedy and 90’s-style action are on display as Smith, Lawrence, El Arbi, and Fallah throw everything but the kitchen sink at the screen, including dizzying hyper-camera movements, an amusing Skittles sequence, and a humongous Florida predator.  (Think of The University of Florida’s athletic teams’ name.)

However, if you aren’t a “Bad Boys” fanatic, this picture – unfortunately – will not be the cinematic golden ticket to win you over.

As previously mentioned, Mike gets hitched, but Marcus receives a massive health scare.  Rather than the fright chasing him into retirement, Marcus feels invincible, and his indestructible new nature baffles Mike in an ongoing bit during the movie’s 115-minute runtime. 

The lieutenants, however, feel vulnerable now that someone frames the late Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) as a corrupt conspirator with nefarious drug cartel connections.  Mike and Marcus spring into action to find this shadowy figure and end this smear campaign.

This someone, a despicable dude and formidable opponent, James McGrath (Eric Dane), works with lethal efficiency, but he carries the charisma of seltzer water minus the bubbles.  

Mike and Marcus don’t know where to find him or who he is.  The audience sees his face, and McGrath is a “faceless” and heartless baddie with zero nuance or mustache twirls.  He is deadly but not a compelling villain against our captivating leads. 

However, as fate would have it, McGrath wants Mike’s son, Armando (Jacob Scipio), dead.  So, Mr. Lowery and Mr. Burnett stick with (and then team up with) Armando to eventually find McGrath.

To complicate matters, McGrath targets Mike’s new wife, Christine (Melanie Liburd), Marcus’ wife, Theresa (Tasha Smith), and his family.  They also must beware of Judy (Rhea Seehorn), a U.S. Marshal who vows to kill Armando because he assassinated her dad, Captain Howard, in “Life”.  Oh, Judy’s daughter, Callie (Quinn Hemphill), tags along for good measure.


Kin is the glue that attempts to emotionally hold the thin construct of a plot together, as Mike, Marcus, AMMO, Armando, Judy, and McGrath and his minions battle in a frantic and silly CGI aircraft scene, gunfights everywhere, including on foot in the countryside, in Marcus’ home, and at an abandoned amusement park.  There is so much gunfire that it melts into background noise and might numb you after a while. 

So much, that Marcus might be right.  He could be invincible, no matter how many bullets zip through the air.

With Mike and Armando reconnecting after “Life”, Mike’s marriage, Marcus’ new attitude, good humor within AMMO, Judy, Mike’s ex-girlfriend Rita (Paola Nunez), and Marcus’ son-in-law Reggie (Dennis Greene) on the scene, El Arbi and Fallah could easily piece together “Bad Boys V”.  This movie and series feel like they are cruising on autopilot right now, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.  If Armando and Reggie survive this film, they could be a next-generation Bad Boys, and, for the record, Marcus’ son-in-law delivers the movie’s funniest moment.

Anyway, like “Fast & Furious” or “Friday the 13th”, I can’t see the series ending.   

You know what they say, “Bad Boys, one last time.”  

⭐ ⭐ out of ⭐ ⭐⭐⭐

Directed by:  Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah

Written by:  Chris Bremner and Will Beall

Starring:  Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Jacob Scipio, Eric Dane, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Paola Nunez, Tasha Smith, Melanie Liburd, Rhea Seehorn, and Joe Pantoliano

Runtime:  115 minutes

Image credits: Sony Pictures Releasing

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