Bad Boys: Ride or Die Review

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Boy Boys for Life caught many off-guard. Few could’ve predicted that the third installment in the Bad Boys franchise would become 2020’s highest-grossing domestic release. Of course, even fewer foreshadowed cinemas shutting down a couple of months later. The film was a pleasant surprise with Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah bringing a fresh visual eye. The screenplay added more emotional stakes with Mike (Will Smith) and Marcus (Martin Lawrence) coming to terms with mortality. The bad boys lived to see another sequel, although Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) didn’t. Spoilers?

Bad Boys: Ride or Die doesn’t retcon Howard’s death, but the filmmakers respectfully keep him at the story’s center. Howard’s legacy is tarnished when evidence surfaces connecting him to the Romanian mob. Knowing this couldn’t be true, Mike and Marcus set out to clear the captain’s name, even if it means getting their hands dirty. Would it be a Bad Boys movie if they did anything by the book or with restraint? While the mystery angle helps to distinguish it from other entries in the series, the mastermind is easy for the audience to sniff out from the second they show up. Ride or Die is mainly another excuse for the guys to partake in banter and shootouts. Adil & Bilall deliver with a burning van and alligator thrown in for good measure.

Mortality is a theme again with Marcus surviving a heart attack. Being surrounded by explosions, shot at, and attacked by wild animals has little effect, but dancing at a wedding sends him into cardiac arrest. Speaking of which, Mike is now married to his therapist Christine (Melanie Liburd), who isn’t given much of an arc outside of being a bride. Theresa Randle is also distractingly replaced with Tasha Smith as Marcus’ wife. Were it not for Vanessa Hudgens returning as weapons expert Kelly and Rhea Seehorn making her debut as Howard’s daughter, the female representation here would be on part with… well, most franchises that started with Michael Bay.

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To be fair, we’re here for Smith and Lawrence, who are always fun to watch and listen to. They bring along a third wheel as Mike’s incarcerated son Armando (Jacob Scipio) gets roped into the case. While Scipio does fine with the material he’s given, the character just comes along for the ride. He doesn’t take anything away from Mike and Marcus’s dynamic, although he doesn’t add much either. Smith and Lawrence have more chemistry with Marcus’ son-in-law Reggie (Dennis Greene), the film’s stealth scene-stealer. First appearing in Bad Boys II, Reggie remains Greene’s only screen role. Reggie isn’t onscreen long in Ride or Die, but he takes center stage in arguably the most intense and well-choreographed scene.

Ride or Die doesn’t breathe new life into the franchise like Bad Boys for Life did. It’s also a severely missed opportunity that this movie wasn’t entitled Bad Boys 4 Life. If only somebody had slapped sense into the producers (yes, that’s kind of alluded to in the climax). Even if the film doesn’t take these characters to bold new territory, Adil & Bilall still have some visual tricks up their sleeve. While some set pieces sound standard on paper, Robrecht Heyvaert’s cinematography bursts with kinetic energy. The action is well-staged and appropriately over-the-top, but it doesn’t eclipse Smith and Lawrence. As long as they’re around, it’s safe to say this franchise won’t be dying anytime soon.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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