Bad Boys: Ride or Die Review

While it seems like it’s being treated as less of an event then it should be, Bad Boys: Ride or Die is a really good entry in the franchise.

Last Updated on June 12, 2024

PLOT: Detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are eager to settle down and enjoy middle age, but when their late, beloved captain (Joe Pantoliano) is framed as a corrupt cop, the two must go off the grid to help clear his name.

REVIEW: Many may not realize it, but Bad Boys For Life was the highest-grossing domestic release of 2020. It made $426 million worldwide, just before the pandemic shut down movies for the rest of the year. It likely would have made even more money had its theatrical run abroad not been truncated. Why is Bad Boys: Ride or Die being treated as a bit less of a box-office event than it should be? Well, a lot has happened in Will Smith’s career since then, with his cachet as a movie star (perhaps) in jeopardy due to the infamous Oscar slap which rocked the industry and hurt his reputation. For many, this is being seen as the ultimate judge as to whether or not Smith will ever be able to rebound with audiences.

Whatever the case, he’s chosen a good comeback movie, with Bad Boys still a surprisingly potent franchise even close to thirty years after it started. The series has always lived by the fact that Smith and co-star Martin Lawrence have top-notch buddy cop chemistry, which has arguably only been strengthened in the intervening years. The two clearly delight in each other, with the two bitching their way through the film like an old married couple. Yet, you never doubt their love (the film also has fun with a recurring gag from the films where Mike and Marcus always tend to wave their guns around in each other’s faces in the most reckless way possible). 

A trailer for Bad Boys 4 has arrived online - and it reveals that the film is officially titled Bad Boys Ride or Die

In this one, Smith’s Lowrey has bounced back from the mid-life crisis he faced in the last movie to get married – albeit not to his love interest from the previous film, Paola Núñez as Captain Rita Secada, but rather his physical therapist, Christine, played by British actress Melanie Liburd. Some will complain the movie reprises one of the biggest plot twists from the last film, where Mike spent a chunk of the film recovering from a near-fatal gunshot wound, with this movie centring around Martin Lawrence’s Marcus having a heart attack. However, their near-death experiences do ground the franchise to some extent, with the movie reminding us right off the top that not only are our two leads human, but they’re getting older. 

Directors Adil & Bilall once again try to ground the franchise with human stakes in a way the more comic-book-styled Michael Bay movies didn’t (although their former director once again gives his blessing by showing up in a cameo). This is probably the most emotional Bad Boys movie yet, with Mike and Marcus not only doubling down on their own brotherhood but also their devotion to their late captain, memorably played by the great Joe Pantoliano, who reprises his role despite being killed in the last film.

Indeed, something is touching about the idea at the movie’s heart -that loyalty trumps all. The baddies frame Marcus and Mike due to their digging, but they know their AMMO pals still have their back, with Alexander Ludwig’s Dorn and Vanessa Hudgens’s Kelly getting more prominent roles this time. Given how some folks turned their back on Smith after the Oscar slap, it’s not hard to read somewhat into the notion of legacy and loyalty explored here, making it a smart comeback effort for Smith. If any movie will put him over again, this is the one.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die, first reactions

Like the other movies, Bad Boys: Ride Or Ride is still a blast, with Adil & Bilall cranking up the comedy and delivering some potent action. Here’s something unexpected – the two best action sequences have nothing to do with Will and Martin. Instead, Jacob Scipio, who returns as Mike’s cartel killer son, Armando, has a brutal prison yard beatdown with some inmates set to kill him, with him dispatching them in a way that sets him up as a pretty solid action hero in his own right. The other is when Marcus’s Marine son-in-law, Dennis Green’s Reggie, who’s always just been shown playing video games in the last two movies, turns out to be an unstoppable killer when the Burnett family suffers a home invasion. Both of these set pieces will likely get audience members cheering.

The movie also pays tribute to the original Michael Bay classic by having Lorne Balfe’s score heavily sample and pay homage to Mark Mancina’s classic soundtrack from the first film. It hit all the right buttons for me – nostalgia-wise. If the movie suffers, it’s because Eric Dane’s Banker, a former DEA agent turned Cartel guy, is too mild-mannered a villain. This is especially true if you compare him to the scenery-chewing Kate del Castillo from the last movie, with the film crying out for someone a little more over the top. It’s also worth saying that some of the red herrings are a little too obvious, while Better Call Saul’s Rhea Seehorn is wasted in a role that winds up being inconsequential. This time, Nunez also takes a bit of a backseat compared to the last film, although Ludwig and Hudgens have nicely expanded roles. Maybe some seeds are being dropped to spin the franchise off with them and Scipio, which wouldn’t be a bad idea.

In a summer rocked by many movies underperforming at the box office, the old-fashioned appeal of Bad Boys: Ride or Die can’t be underestimated. The directors have bounced back nicely from Batgirl being shelved, delivering another slam-bang instalment into the franchise that should be a legit hit, even if Smith still rubs some people the wrong way. This is a solid comeback role for him, with the movie working overtime to remind us that even if our heroes may seem larger than life on screen, they’re human at the end of the day. It’s hard not to root once again for these Bad Boys to keep their franchise going for years to come. 

Bad Boys 4



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.