Will Smith and Martin Lawrence return as the Miami cops in Sony’s limp bid to reignite the summer blockbuster box-office

Bad Boys: Ride Or Die

Source: Sony Pictures Entertainment

‘Bad Boys: Ride Or Die’

Dirs: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah. USA. 2024. 115mins

Two renegade cops are the only people standing in the way of a nefarious drugs cartel riding roughshod over the party city of Miami: if that sounds familiar, it’s because the plot of Bad Boys: Ride Or Die is exactly the same as that of previous films Bad Boys (1995), Bad Boys II (2003) and Bad Boys For Life (2020) — albeit with a sprinkle of police corruption now added to the mix. What was high-octane box office fodder 30 years ago plays like old hat now, and no amount of breakneck camera work and explosive action sequences can disguise the by-the-numbers filmmaking on display.

A relentless bombardment of bombastic effects whipped up by a pounding soundtrack, rapid-fire editing and frenzied camerawork 

Typically that would not be a worry for Sony, which releases the film globally on June 5. While Bad Boys may be a franchise of diminishing returns when it comes to entertainment value, it has been increasingly lucrative. Bad Boys For Life broke domestic Martin Luther King weekend box office records in 2020, eventually taking $426.5m globally, and tracking suggests that Ride Or Die (which has Belgian-Moroccan filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, credited as ’Adil & Bilall’, back at the helm) could follow the same trajectory. But summer 2024 is proving tough terrain for blockbusters, with the much-anticipated likes of Furiosa and The Fall Guy performing below expectation, and it remains to be seen whether Ride Or Die has enough heft — and enough of a loyal fanbase — to buck the trend.

In colourful, sun-saturated Miami (although the film, like Bad Boys For Life, shot in Atlanta), narcotics detectives Mike Lowery (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are still coming to terms with the murder of their beloved Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano). When the cartel attempts to frame Howard for corruption by transferring millions of drugs money to his (bizarrely still active) bank account, Mike and Marcus are determined to prove his innocence. They enlist the help of Mike’s incarcerated son Armando (Jacob Scipio), whose mother was the key player in a cartel Mike was involved with while undercover. (Armando assassinated Howard in the previous film, after first shooting Mike and putting him in a months-long coma, adding another Freudian layer to the film that is never fully explored.)

Putting their faith in old friend and new police chief Rita (Paola Nuñez), and cops Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens) and Dorn (Alexander Ludwig), Mike and Marcus butt heads with US Marshal – and Captain Howard’s daughter – Judy (Rhea Seehorn), who has a personal score to settle. It is all further complicated by the fact that cartel boss James McGrath (Eric Dane) has kidnapped Judy’s daughter Callie (Quinn Hemphill) and Mike’s new wife Christine (Melanie Liburd), who he conveniently married at the beginning of the film. 

It is now three decades since Mike and Marcus first teamed up in the original Bad Boys (also notable for being Michael Bay’s directorial debut), and the characters have a substantial history, something screenwriters Chris Bremner (also returning from Bad Boys For Life) and Will Beall take full advantage of. Mike and Marcus’s longstanding partnership and shared experiences — underscored by several brief flashbacks to earlier films — gives them an easy camaraderie that is meant to grease the wheels of this convoluted narrative. Yet, with directorial choices leaning heavily into the insanity (and often inanity) of events, even that strong buddy chemistry can’t keep it on the rails.

Smith and Lawrence are clearly no longer the agile young men they once were — something gently alluded to without ever undermining their action hero status — but still embrace the physicality of their roles. And when Marcus survives a heart attack in the first 15 minutes of the film, this is not played as a sobering event but an experience that leaves him with a penchant for spouting glib affirmations about bonded souls and a belief that he is indestructible. (There’s also a scene of Marcus slapping Mike repeatedly in the face which, intentionally or otherwise, calls to mind Smith’s infamous Oscars altercation with Chris Rock in 2022, which delayed filming on this project.) 

Ultimately, Ride Or Die is such a relentless bombardment of bombastic effects whipped up by a pounding soundtrack, rapid-fire editing and frenzied camerawork — which, at times, emulates a first-person video game — that it becomes exhausting, rather than exhilarating. “Stop that stupid shit,” admonishes a frustrated Mike to a reckless Marcus at one point. On the strength of this latest outing, this wrung-out franchise should perhaps heed his advice.

Production companies: Columbia Pictures, Westbrook Studios, Jerry Bruckheimer Productions, 2.0 Entertainment

Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Will Smith, Chad Oman, Doug Belgrad

Worldwide distribution: Sony Pictures

Screenplay: Chris Bremner, Will Beall

Cinematography: Robrecht Heyvaert

Production design: Jon Billington

Editors: Dan Lebental, Asaf Eisenberg

Music: Lorne Balfe

Main cast: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Paola Nunez, Eric Dane, Ioan Gruffudd, Melanie Liburd, Tasha Smith, Tiffany Haddish, Joe Pantoliano