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Bad Boys Ride or Die ~ Review

It's hard to believe it has been almost thirty years since the first Bad Boys film. To put that in some context – not only was Will Smith on the verge of becoming a megastar, but that 1995 movie was director Michael Bay's first feature film. Both Bay's and Smith's careers took off after that and Bad Boys II didn't hit theaters until 2003.

If you haven't seen the gonzo-action masterpiece that is Bad Boys II, that film takes everything from the first movie and cranks the dial up to eleven. Bay gives Martin Lawrence and Smith free reign to comedically riff and then commits some of the nuttiest action ever filmed with wild camera moves, car chases, and explosions.

It shouldn't be a huge surprise that it took almost another two decades for the third entry Bad Boys for Life to hit theaters. Directed by Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi, while Bay stepped out from the director's chair, his distinctive style was taken up by the filmmakers, while also giving a fresh spin of their own. The film was a pre-pandemic hit, and after some stints in TV and the canceled Batgirl (more on that later) Fallah and Arbi returned to the franchise.

And so, amid an anemic summer box office Bad Boys Ride or Die roars into theaters -- bringing Miami cops Mike Lowery (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) back for another cinematic adventure. A brief refresher -- Smith and Lawrence are two wisecracking narcotics officers. Smith is the ladies’ man and action hero, while Lawrence is the wiry family man. Each entry finds these two at different points in their emotional lives -- while also embroiling them in some form of drug smuggling conspiracy. Typically, Smith will embody a gung-ho shoot-first, ask-questions-later approach, while Lawrence will try to temper that with some form of vague spiritualism and just general fussiness. The last entry began to play up the family aspects of these two characters -- making the franchise like the Fast and the Furious movies.

In Ride or Die, Lowery and Burnett are embroiled in another overly complicated drug conspiracy led by the cruel and mysterious Banker (Eric Dane), which involves their former captain (Joe Pantoliano who died in the previous movie but shows up in post-mortem videos -- long story) being framed as a dirty cop and ends up putting the two on the run with both the FBI and cartel hot on their tail, necessitating the help of Lowery's bastard son Armando (Jacob Scipio) – also a long story.

If you can't keep the plot straight it doesn't matter -- everything is on rails here, and nothing story-wise is going to shock or surprise you because really, the whole point of these movies is; 1) Will Smith and Martin Lawrence riffing and 2) Crazy over the top action sequences. And on those two points, this movie delivers. Smith and Lawrence have such easy chemistry together that you believe these two are lifelong best friends/work partners. They are hilarious together, and what helps even more is that they also commit to the emotional scenes, further cementing their relationship.

However, the action sequences are the highlights here. Fallah and Arbi go all out, using handheld cameras, drones, and faux oners to bring the Michael Bay energy of the first two installments. One highlight is a siege on an abandoned amusement park that uses video game inspired images to create something truly crazy and fun. Judging by their work here, I can't imagine that Batgirl was unreleasable, and Warner Brothers should be kicking themselves for deleting the movie for a tax write-off.

The other actors all acquit themselves nicely, playing everything earnestly. Rhea Seehorn as a federal marshal and daughter of the captain, is quite good. I do want to highlight Dennis Greene who plays Marcus’ son-in-law Reggie. Greene has been in all of these movies post Bad Boys II and he gets a standout action sequence that made my Thursday night audience howl with delight.

And that's the thing, fun is the word of the day with Bad Boys Ride or Die. It doesn't do anything unexpected, but honestly, should it? I had a blast. It's like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it might be a bad idea for every meal, but sometimes, it just hits the spot.

Three out of Four Stars.