Thursday, June 13, 2024

Bad Boys: Ride or Die. A Review



It was the slap heard and seen round the world. On his inevitable (and to my mind, inexplicable) march towards his Best Actor win for King Richard, Will Smith publicly assaulted Chris Rock after Rock made an off-the-cuff joke about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Smith went from beloved superstar to public pariah. Now, he is on a comeback if not redemption tour. One way to do that is to return to a well-liked franchise almost guaranteed to be a hit. Thus, Bad Boys: Ride or Die. As it is the fourth Bad Boys film, calling it Bad Boys: 4 Life might have worked, but that title was used already. Bad Boys: Ride or Die is not good, but it should make fans happy, so I can't fault it for that. 

Mike Lowery (Smith) is finally getting married, with his bride the beautiful Christine (Melanie Liburd). There at his side, like always, is his other longtime partner, Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), forever in the hunt for snacks. At the wedding, Marcus suffers a near-fatal heart attack while doing The Wobble. While he does survive, Marcus does have a near-death experience where he sees the late Captain Conrad Howard (Joe Pantoliano), who tells him it is not his time. Now convinced that he is basically immortal, Marcus also sends a message from the Great Beyond, warning Mike that he has to make a serious choice.

A new danger comes from James McGrath (Eric Dane), a former Ranger gone rogue who is attempting to frame the dead Captain Howard as a dirty cop. Mike and Marcus are enraged that Howard's memory is being demolished and seek to find out who is attempting the postmortem frame-up. Now our bad boys must uncover the massive conspiracy. Aiding them are Detectives Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens) and Dorn (Alexander Ludwig), partners in so many ways. Also helping is Mike's ex-girlfriend Rita (Paola Nunez) and Howard's daughter, U.S. Marshall Judy (Rhea Seehorn).

Unexpected help comes from Mike's illegitimate son Armando (Jacob Scipio), who killed Howard in Bad Boys for Life. What role does Rita's boyfriend and aspiring Miami mayor Adam Lockwood (Ioan Gruffudd) have in all this? As Mike and Marcus become fugitives themselves, friends, foes and frenemies must make decisions that may cost them their lives. Except for Marcus, who apparently is immortal. All things end well, complete with a Fast & Furious style picnic. 

I have seen only the first Bad Boys film, which I found entertaining. I can't quite say the same for Bad Boys: Ride or Die. It might be because at 55 and 59, Smith and Lawrence look a bit old to be doing these action films. That might explain why a nice chunk of the action went to Scipio, who is a mere 31. It might also have to do with how I never saw any other Bad Boys films. Perhaps there I could have had a plausible explanation for how Scipio in any way, shape or form could be confused for Will Smith's son. They look nothing alike, not even a passing resemblance, so I am a bit puzzled as to how everyone and anyone could see Armando and say that was Mike's son.

It might have also something to do with Chris Bremner and Wil Beall's screenplay. After one of their informants, who was in the last film, is shot by McGrath's goons, Marcus takes cover behind a table with snacks and drinks. He finds the jelly beans unpalatable, but in the melee, a bowl of Skittles is shot. With Skittles cascading down, we hear Barry White's Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Baby playing as he, in slow motion, enjoys this forbidden treat. I guess one is supposed to laugh. I was more mystified by what I was seeing.

I think it is because the film's directors, Arbi & Fallah, were more interested in various shots than in things like plot or character. We get interesting POV shots of various moments. Interesting here does not mean good, merely a film choice that drew attention to itself. At a few points, it looked like a literal video game. I guess that is the current aesthetic in film, but it did not make Bad Boys: Ride or Die good.

The script goes hither and yon, adding things that are pointless, such as encounter with racist rednecks. It also goes for points of what I figure is unintended comedy. As the climatic raid on McGrath's crocodile lair goes on, we see the previously-mentioned Duke, world's largest white crocodile. The way Arbi and Fallah shaped it, I was waiting for Peter Pan's crocodile to start ticking. I literally could hear the music playing in my head as Duke started floating by. 

As a side note, I did wonder what D!J! KHA!LED! was doing here other than living out some fantasy. Really, what does DJ Khaled do other than shout his name out on whatever music track he is in? He and Tiffany Haddish are just here, add nothing to whatever plot the film has and leave.

One can also see that Bad Boys: Ride or Die is not good based on the performances. There were almost none. Everyone pretty much knows that their characters have one thing (wacky, whacked-out, dim, menacing) and played it as such. I give grudging respect to Ludwig, whose himbo Dorn was slightly amusing in his near-idiocy. I also respect Hudgens as I did not recognize her. 

Smith and Lawrence were not good. They were not called to be, and I figure that they know their characters well enough to not bother doing anything to make them different than the previous films.

While I did not think Bad Boys: Ride or Die was good, I can say two good things about it. The film gave fans of this franchise what they wanted, with the audience that I saw it with enjoying the goings-on. Also, at least it's better than Argylle


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