Bad Boys: Ride or Die (2024) Review: Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s Playful Banter Excels as Usual in This Overly Stylised Fourth Entry

“One last time”.

Those were the words from Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), the last time they decided to team up again after the latter came out of retirement in Bad Boys for Life. With the third movie addressing their characters’ ageing factors and changing circumstances, it capped off nicely with a fitting closure to the Bad Boys trilogy.

But the unexpected third-act twist and a mid-credits stinger suggest the franchise is far from over. And most of all, the third movie turned out to be a better-than-expected hit so it’s natural we get another Bad Boys movie. It also helps that Bad Boys for Life exceeded box-office expectations, grossing over US$426 million worldwide over its US$90 million budget.

The good news is that we don’t have to wait a decade later or so for the follow-up, unlike the 17-year gap between Bad Boys II and Bad Boys for Life. Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, known collectively as Adil & Bilall return for the second round and they raise the stakes higher by placing the pair of Miami’s finest on the opposite side of the law: Mike and Marcus become fugitives for the first time in the franchise history.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die opens with the quintessential moment of the pair’s foul-mouthed squabbling and comedic banter, showcasing the lived-in buddy-cop chemistry as usual between Will Smith’s Mike Lowrey and Martin Lawrence’s Marcus Burnett. Everything’s fine until an unlikely incident leads to Marcus’s subsequent moments of divine intervention. He starts to talk gibberish, which in turn, gives Lawrence the chance enough ample room to stretch his comedy repertoire. Just like the previous movie, the story continues to address the pair’s ageing issues and how things are not what they used to be. At one point, such a matter-of-fact situation also happens to the otherwise maverick and energetic Mike Lowrey.

The plot eventually thickens when Mike and Marcus find out the unexpected breaking news about their late Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) being accused of police corruption and conspiring with the drug cartels over the past few years. They set out to clear his name, only to find themselves framed for the crimes they didn’t commit.

The two of Miami’s finest are now on the run with Mike’s jailed son, Armando (Jacob Scipio) from Bad Boys for Life involved as well. With the help of the former AMMO team leader-turned-Miami PD captain Rita Secada (Paola Núñez) alongside ex-AMMO colleagues Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens) and Dorn (Alexander Ludwig), the three have to overcome several ordeals including facing a new antagonist played by Eric Dane.

The jokes mostly work and they slap too, both literally and figuratively. Smith and Lawrence certainly have a lot of fun in this fourth Bad Boys instalment. Returning characters such as Paola Núñez, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig and Joe Pantoliano have their few moments.

But it was Dennis Greene, reprising his role as Reggie who steals the show in a single scene. Let’s just say his character being a Marine does come in handy. Tasha Smith, who replaced Theresa Randle from the previous three movies as Marcus’s wife does take me some time to get used to the change of a different actress. Eric Dane, who plays the new main antagonist in Bad Boys: Ride or Die is nothing more than your standard-issue villain straight out of the assembly line. The fourth entry also added Rhea Seehorn of TV’s Better Call Saul fame, playing Captain Howard’s daughter, US Marshal Judy Howard. She looks the part of a tough, no-nonsense law enforcer in an otherwise underwritten role.

Co-directors Adil & Bilall continue to embrace Michael Bay’s (look out for his blink-and-you-miss-it cameo appearance) filmmaking style in this latest entry. And this time, it seems to me they have watched Bay’s Ambulance and decided to go crazy with lots of drone camerawork and SnorriCam shots. The latter refers to a body-mounted rig, offering a POV from the actor’s perspective and the directing duo draws heavy inspiration from video games, particularly the first-person shooters. It’s technically cool and all, allowing them to experiment on how far they can go with impossible and creative camera angles. Such a technique does work well to a certain degree during the explosive climactic third act in the abandoned alligator theme park.

But Adil & Bilall’s visual insanity tends to backfire in some action scenes, notably in dimly-lit scenarios where sometimes it’s hard to admire the roving, 360-degree camerawork trying to capture the propulsiveness of a gunfight or hand-to-hand combat. The nighttime chase scene involving a speeding van on fire lacks the visceral mayhem seen in the last three movies.

Frankly, someone should tell Adil & Bilall that not every action set piece is ideally shot in a drone-centric/SnooriCam camerawork. A balanced mix of grounded and classical camerawork would do the movie’s action scenes a huge favour. The Bad Boys movies may have been visually stylish since its 1995 debut but not to the extent of making it look like a straight-out, videogame-heavy movie.

At least Adil & Bilall retain the standard two-hour length without going all loose cannons with the bloated runtime seen in Bad Boys II. The second go-round from this Belgian directing duo helming a Bad Boys movie may lack the previous entry’s better handling of the story and technical aspects.

But Bad Boys: Ride or Die remains a reasonably entertaining buddy-cop action comedy, proving there’s still life left in this nearly 30-year-old franchise. According to an interview, Adil & Bilall mentioned that “anything is possible” regarding the possibility of more Bad Boys movies in the future. Personally, after watching this fourth entry, I guess it would be wise to end the franchise while it’s ahead.