With Bad Boys for Life (2020) taking in almost half a billion dollars at the box office, a sequel was a foregone conclusion. The only question was how long would it take to reach the screen. Columbia Pictures weren’t exactly quick on their feet with the third entry, with there being 17 years between that and its predecessor.

Other problems outside of the film also looked to affect the release of a fourth film, with Will Smith’s well documented personal issues possibly derailing the film’s production. However, what was clear was that Will Smith could be doing with a hit. His previous film Emancipation (2022) was hurt by his infamous slapping incident, with many reviews focusing on this rather than the qualities of the film. Outside of some historical inaccuracies, I found Emancipation to be a terrific action thriller, featuring one of Smith’s finest performances to date, so it was a shame to see it swiftly being sent to streaming after a limited theatrical run. 

Obviously something like Bad Boys is a safer bet than Emancipation, with it already having a built in audience. No doubt this is one of the deciding factors in Will Smith deciding that Bad Boys: Ride or Die would be his next feature. The big question is, are people willing to forget Smith’s personal issues and judge the film on its own merits?

Personally, for most of the time I don’t let an actor’s personal life influence my enjoyment of a film, so I could put such feelings aside and just enjoy the film as it was. It does help that the 4th entry in the franchise includes everything we have come to love about the series, filled with exciting action scenes, laugh out loud comedy and a good bit of heart. Although it may not be considered a classic, it is a perfect summer fare. It also helps that the film doesn’t solely rely on the talents of Will Smith, with Martin Lawrence being a major component of the film’s success.

The chemistry between Smith and Lawrence is still one of the main virtues of the series, with it being easy to believe the two of them have been lifelong friends. Ride or Die sends their characters in some new, interesting directions that keeps the series from feeling stale.

The film kicks off with perpetual ladies man Mike Lowery (Will Smith) finally making the decision to settle down, with him and Marcus (Martin Lawrence) rushing to make his wedding, not before getting involved in an armed robbery because Marcus decided he needs some Ginger Ale.

The wedding is going fine until Marcus has a heart attack. Rather than this putting a damper on things, instead it gives Marcus a new lease of life with him feeling almost invincible. This feeling comes in really useful when he and Mike are thrown into the thick of it after evidence is leaked suggesting that the deceased Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) was corrupt.

Through their investigation to clear Howard’s name, Mike and Marcus find themselves set up and forced to go on the run, with Mike having to turn to his estranged son Armando (Jacob Scipio) for help.

After the shelving of their Batwoman film, directors Adil & Bilall come out the gate swinging, building upon the work they had already done in the 3rd film. They have excelled themselves during the film’s action scenes, with there being even more elaborate camera work than before. The choreography of the shootouts and fight scenes are all on point, but the addition of some insane camerawork just adds another dimension to the action and raises it above their already solid work on part 3.

An early art gallery based shootout is just a taste of what’s to come, mixing bombastic action with just the right amount of humor. Each subsequent action scene builds on the last, with a standout being a fight scene inside an out of control helicopter where Mike and Marcus have to fight off a team of mercenaries whilst trying to protect Armando who is locked in a cage that is about to go out the back of the helicopter.

The finale also includes all the firepower, beat downs and explosions you could want, taking place within the confines of an abandoned Miami Amusement Park, where our heroes not only have to deal with a small army but that of the left over alligators. Still, as great as this is, the standout for me surprisingly doesn’t even involve Smith or Lawrence, instead focusing on Dennis Greene’s Reggie, Marcus’ son in law. Fans of the series will no doubt remember the character’s hilarious introduction back in Bad Boys 2 (2003), so it is unexpected when it turns out that he has become a complete badass, taking down a team of home invaders with ease.

Adil & Bilall have brought back regular cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert who gives the overall film a beautifully vibrant look, keeping it in line with the other films in the series (as well as many other Jerry Bruckheimer productions). Accompanying the lovely imagery is a fine score by Lorne Balfe, who incorporates many of the series’ signature themes throughout the film which brings back just the right amount of nostalgia as well as matching the action perfectly.

Unsurprisingly, both Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are great, with both actors getting multiple opportunities to show off their comic timing as well as giving the film the emotional heart that it needs. Lawrence is especially good as the somewhat altered Marcus, throwing himself into the thick of the action without a care due to his new outlook on life.

Paola Núñez has less screen time than she had in the last film but is still an integral part of the team, with Vanessa Hudgens and Alexander Ludwig returning as Kelly and Dom, members of AMMO, with them being the only ones on the force Mike and Marcus can trust. Neither Hudgens or Ludwig are afforded lots of screen time but do well with what they are given, with Dom’s anxieties giving Ludwig an excuse to inject some humor into his performance.

Jacob Scipio gets to be part of the team this time round, and he doesn’t disappoint, with him getting his own fair share of action scenes. The fight scenes he takes part in are especially memorable, showing how deadly Armando can be when put into a corner. Scipio is definitely better served here than he was in last year’s Expend4bles (2023), with Ride of Die allowing him to develop a character that’s his own rather than doing what boiled down to an Antonio Banderas impression.

I did appreciate the return of Joe Pantoliano’s Captain Howard, even if his part does feel shoehorned in. He only appears in a few scenes but makes the most of them. If I had one gripe it would be how bland Eric Dane’s villain McGrath is. It’s no fault of Dane, who has proven to be a dependable actor over the years, but his character doesn’t really call for him to stretch himself, with McGrath being a one note villain, paling in comparison to the likes of Tcheky Karyo or Jordi Molla from previous outings. He does however fare better than Ioan Gruffud whose character seems like an afterthought, totally wasting the former Mr Fantastic in a nothing role.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die isn’t the best the franchise has to offer, but it is consistent in providing quality entertainment, with there not being a poor entry yet in this series. It already looks like the film is going to be another success for Columbia Pictures, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t the last time we see Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett. 

Plot: 4/5
Acting: 4/5
Action: 4/5
Overall: 4/5



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