Bad Boys: Ride or Die – Bad Boys, Still Good Fun

Bad Boys, whatcha gonna do when middle age comes for you?

Directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, Bad Boys: Ride or Die reinstates Miami’s most reckless cops, Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett (Will Smith and Martin Lawrence), as they discover that their late police captain (Joe Pantoliano) has been linked to drug cartels. Convinced of his innocence, the dynamic duo become determined to clear his name, even if it means enlisting Mike’s imprisoned son in the process.

As the fourth entry into the franchise, Ride or Die is another entertaining ride that still has some firepower. After almost 30 years since the first film, it’s worth noting that age is definitely catching up with the franchise. Now in their mid-50s, both Smith and Lawrence are still up for the action but the heaviest physical scenes are left to the next generation of characters. (In fact, one scene actually involves Marcus and Mike cheering on the thwarting of a raid without actually participating in it themselves.) Even so, in keeping with the franchises’ legacy for wanton destruction, the film still manages to bring some genuine ‘wow’ moments in their set pieces. Flaming cars, fast-paced fist fights and drone strikes give the film strong visuals to draw viewers into the fray.

Admittedly, the story in the film feels like mashup of other ‘renegade cop’ films, ranging from The Fugitive to John Wick to Fast & the Furious. However, the pure joy of this series lies in the chemistry that exists between Smith and Lawrence. After all these years, the two men have such an ease about their banter that one can’t help but enjoy riding along with them. 

Further, what sets this entry into the franchise apart is the way that it reverses the roles of its characters. Unlike other Bad Boys films, Ride or Die allows the characters to switch personas to keep things fresh. Whereas Lawrence’s Marcus has always excelled as the more paranoid member of the duo, his character in this film has a sense of invincibility. No longer is Marcus afraid of the danger. Now, he literally runs toward it.

This change also creates a slightly different role for Smith’s Lowrey. With Marcus taking on the role of reckless cop, Mike suddenly begins to show cracks in his persona. Panic attacks and mental health struggles begin to affect him as the once-unshakable cop begins to look at his own mortality. 

But there’s definitely more here at play. Without question, Lowrey’s character arc is meant as an opportunity to show growth in Smith himself. As his first film since the infamous ‘Oscar slap’, Smith’s character here becomes somewhat repentant for his past bravado. Suddenly, the character who spent much of his time onscreen proving his masculinity is seen here trying to reconcile it with his humanity. 

In short, this is a character who seems to be growing up.

To Mike, it seems that his desire to ‘be the man’ is finally showing signs of responsibility and—dare I say it—humility. Still wrestling with the loss of their captain, Mike feels responsible for his death. His inability to save their boss leaves him burdened with guilt. For Mike, he needs to come to grips with his actions (or lack thereof) and find grace for his mistakes in order to move forward.  (In fact, it’s worth noting that Mike even gets slapped himself.) All this amounts to a deliberate attempt on behalf of Smith to rebuild his image after the 2023 Oscars. And it’s understandable. While it will take far more than a fictional character to restore Smith’s scarred image, the character development within his ‘Bad Boy’ is a good place to start.

While the two men may be older, Bad Boys: Ride or Die still gives fans what they want. Even if the script does feel familiar, there is still a playfulness about these two elder Boys that makes the film both fast and furious. In fact, I’d even be ready for one last ride before they retire their badges.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die is available in theatres on Friday, June 4th, 2024 

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