Bad Boys: Ride or Die

Bad Boys: Ride or Die is Will Smith’s first major release since the infamous Oscar slap. As I settled into my seat, I wondered how long it would take me to get wrapped up in the story and forget about that ugly incident. It ended up not mattering because the film has a scene where co-star Martin Lawrence comically slaps Smith four times. Okay, so this is supposed to be the moment where the actor takes the requisite jab at himself to let the world know he’s moved on from whatever embarrassment he may have felt in the aftermath. Are audiences ready to forgive him, though? Coming back with a high-profile sequel probably seemed like good damage control, except that it isn’t the boys that are bad here, it’s the movie itself.

Mike (Smith) and Marcus (Lawrence) are shocked to discover their late, beloved Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) is being accused of conspiring with the cartels to smuggle drugs into the U.S. They know he’s innocent and set out to clear his name. How many times have we seen a variation of this plot? Hundreds? Thousands? Their search for evidence to exonerate Howard leads to James McGrath (Eric Dane), a rogue former DEA officer who’s partially behind the frame job. There’s also a “secret” bad guy. If you can’t spot him the second he walks onscreen, it’s likely that Bad Boys: Ride or Die is your very first movie.

The Bad Boys franchise was never a paragon of storytelling, but it’s particularly sloppy here. Our heroes often stumble onto lucky breaks or figure out complex matters quickly so that the plot can chug ahead to the next ultra-violent action sequence. Becoming slightly confused is easy. Then the film offers a climactic revelation that ties the preceding events into the tragedy of Sept. 11 and you just want to go back to being confused.

Directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah pumped new life into the previous installment, Bad Boys For Life. This time, they get bogged down bringing in supporting characters from the prior films for pointless, pace-killing cameos. Even the action is subpar. Adil & Bilall (as they’re credited) overindulge in show-offish camera moves that don’t serve the scenes they're part of, much less the overall plot. Getting excited is tough when the directors are calling so much attention to their own style. Certain times, you can’t tell what they were trying to do. A potentially thrilling shootout at an art museum is repeatedly interrupted by gags involving Marcus wanting to eat candy.

The humor is notably weak in this sequel. A whole subplot has Marcus dying for a few minutes, then coming back to life believing he’s invincible. The grand finale, meanwhile, finds the guys fighting a giant alligator. Smith and Lawrence have proven to possess good onscreen chemistry. The dialogue they’re saddled with just rehashes their bantering from the other pictures. There’s one really good scene, shown almost entirely in the trailer, where Mike and Marcus are confronted by two gun-toting rednecks whose clothes they’ve stolen. Watching the actors take aim at racism is funny. And then it’s right back to dumb jokes about Skittles and the Inner Circle song that gives the series its name.

While nothing could be worse than the godawful Bad Boys II, Bad Boys: Ride or Die remains a colossal bust. Forget Chris Rock; Will Smith should have slapped some sense into the people who wrote the idiotic screenplay that drives this mess.

out of four

Bad Boys: Ride or Die is rated R for strong violence, language throughout, and some sexual references. The running time is 1 hour and 55 minutes.

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan