Like Will Smith, Bad Boys: Ride or Die Totally Slaps

The fourth Bad Boys movie is a rollicking, rip-roaring return to form.

Two men fist-bumping on a waterfront with a cityscape behind them during sunset. They are engaged in...
Sony Pictures Entertainment
Inverse Reviews

It's been nearly 30 years since Michael Bay’s Bad Boys first brought Martin Lawrence and Will Smith together as a bankable pair of bickering, brotherly Miami cops. But in those three decades, the famously bombastic franchise has shown remarkable restraint by only releasing a total of four movies. But thankfully, the latest, a muscular sequel directed by Bad Boys for Life directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (now going by the moniker Adil and Bilall), shows that the franchise is still more ridin' than dyin'. An uptempo, deliriously enjoyable sequel, Bad Boys: Ride or Die is a movie so kinetic it feels like your own ticket could light on fire.

Picking up some years after Bad Boys for Life, hotshot Miami detectives Mike (Smith) and Marcus (Lawrence) are well into middle age. Their bodies are prone to betraying them than before, and both have arcs centered around kinds of heart failures. But the two are once more engaged by police business, in this case their late mentor Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano, reprising his role in a capacity amounting to vlogs and hallucinatory medicine ads) having his named dragged in the mud when he's posthumously accused of corruption and collusion with drug cartels. Mike and Marcus – the latter spiritually renewed after a near-fatal heart attack – soon become fugitives on the lam, along with Mike's estranged criminal son Armando (Jacob Scipio).

Age might slow down Mike and Marcus, but Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are still as electric as ever.

Sony Pictures Entertainment

Age hasn’t slowed either Smith or Lawrence, who are as effervescent and electric as ever. (Only their Just For Men hair dye is having a tough time.) The two Hollywood stars assert their ownership over the series even in spite of the series' strange habit of adding to the ensemble to the point of drowning them out. Eric Dane co-stars in Ride or Die as the gruff antagonist, while a steely Rhea Seehorn debuts in the thankless part as a US Marshal with continuity relevant lineage who hunts our (bad) boys down. Ioan Gruffudd is also in this thing somehow, as the mayor of Miami with his own spoiler-y angle on the plot.

The things Adil and Bilall do behind the movie's proverbial wheel (along with frequent collaborator Robrecht Heyvaert as cinematographer) suggest they're still pissed off, and rightfully so, over how their Batgirl suffered an undignified demise. In a compact two hours, Adil and Bilall wisely waste no time to unload bullets, set off explosions, ram a van into DJ Khaled, and yes, slap Will Smith in the face, all over a story that is more soulful than it is legible.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die is no Furiosa, of course. Where George Miller makes a meal out of Anya Taylor-Joy's haunted eyes, Adil and Bilall make practically a 1990s candy commercial in their elaborate slow-mo of Martin Lawrence tonguing flavored liquor while it rains jelly beans around him. Bad Boys: Ride or Die certainly gets weird, and not necessarily in a way that will make anyone say "Hell yeah" like the imposing presence of a horned goof named The Octoboss would.

Under Adil and Bilall’s leadership, the Bad Boys franchise is as alive as ever.

Sony Pictures Entertainment

But Ride or Die provides thunderous entertainment of its own to ensure audiences aren't reminded there's a more transgressive franchise sequel playing across the hall. Unlike their middling last entry, which was held back by a dud of a script and shot at the knees by its directors' inexperience, Ride or Die now exhibit Adil and Bilall as genre visionaries with sharpened proficiency, if not prowess beyond their years. Ample use of single-take drone shots, which the two experimented with last time, weave in and out of the physical choreography, like a bird needling through the crevices. The effect is dizzying and exhilarating, and more than makes up for the cranked-up maximalism that is tons more bombastic than it is balletic. Maybe for the first time ever, describing a movie as a "rollercoaster" has never been more apropos, as the only thing missing from the visual are winding tracks and the front bump of a coaster car.

In my screening of icy critics, the thawed atmosphere fully heated up when an unexpected supporting character enjoyed an overdue crowning moment. Shortly after came a lethal combo of feral alligators lurking in the swamp and first-person shooter-inspired sequences. Truly, Ride or Die feels like the hell on wheels through which Adil and Bilall are determined to tell the world, and David Zaslav specifically, that deleting Batgirl from Warner Bros. hard drives was a crime against art. If that was indeed their endeavor, they succeed in delivering a vacuum-sealed package of summertime goodness that feels alive with equal parts style and aggression.

It's easy to poke at the gaping holes in Ride or Die's undercooked script and misplaced points of catharsis but that doesn't mean it's worth doing so. Why bother dwelling on what's absent rather than what's present? Bad Boys: Ride or Die, being its rollicking and rip-roaring self, is evidence of the virtues of enjoying all that is still here. The good times aren't over just yet.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die hits theaters on June 7.

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