They ain’t going nowhere – Bad Boys: Ride or Die

Directors: Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence,  Running Time: 115 minutes

Every movie in the now-4-part Bad Boys series is a mindless action movie, but it is important to distinguish the different flavours of mindlessness. The first two, as directed by Michael Bay are pure meathead madness, slickly produced, gleefully cruel intentional excess. Since taking over, Belgian brothers Adil & Bilall have turned the wackiness up to 11, a move which served them well in the surprisingly delightful For Life and continues in Ride or Die, which starts with corny comedy about speeding and Skittles and only gets sillier from there.

If I and II were Grand Theft Auto, aggressively in-your-face, then the latter efforts are distinctly Saint’s Row, its looser-gooser derivative – inventively juvenile, intentionally over-the-top and more openly outrageous. Saying a movie looks like a video game used to be a critic’s harshest cudgel – Ride or Die is actively trying to do so too blatantly to begrudge it, and its frantic sugar-rush action romp continues to give a new lease of life to its aging stars.

Having had their Batgirl movie permanently shelved for tax purposes, the kind of witless, artless move that can derail developing directors, Adil & Bilall throw absolutely everything at the wall here, directing like they may never get another chance. It’s excitingly excessive, if a little hard to look at sometimes, as the camera flips to front-facing, goes into first person mode, and generally moves with the perpetuity of a shark that’s particularly afraid to die. There are POV shots from the Bad Boys’ guns, from the Bad Boys’ cars, from the Bad Boys’ drones, even at one point from one of their watches…the action is loud and thumpingly physical, as impactful as CGI blood and explosions can possibly be. The curious contrast is that the more hyperactive and insane the action around them becomes, the more comfortable and cosy the film’s stars become.

As veteran cops Mike and Marcus, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence have an easy chemistry as always, like the two uncles you hope can both make it to the family gathering. They tease each other, they exchange dad joke level quips, they breeze through subplots of varying levels of seriousness. Mike’s unrelenting intensity starts to catch up to him as fears about protecting the ones he loves start manifesting as panic attacks. Marcus meanwhile, finds himself at peace, fearless and, by his own estimation, invulnerable, after coming back from a heart attack with much of the film’s comedy coming from Lawrence’s airy fairy attitude. After abandoning his Anger in the last film and his Fear in this one, there is every chance if this series continues that we’ll eventually see Martin Lawrence ascend to a higher plane of existence.

The Boys are Old Men now, with families and friends they want to enjoy their remaining time with. When their old chief Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) is posthumously framed for corruption, and starts sending his Boys a series of Scooby Doo clues from beyond the grave, they go off-grid to repair his reputation, and their own, and take down some generic, snarly bad (as in bad) guys along the way. And patch up Mike’s relationship with his criminal son. And talk down Howard’s grieving US Marshall daughter (Rhea Seehorn, cashing a cheque). And uncover corruption in the Miami PD. And murder DJ Khaled? ? There’s far too much going on, but when the dust settles and Mike and Marcus start grousing again, you just roll your eyes with a grin and leave them to the endearing idiocy.

With dorky cameos and song covers, more product placement than you can shake a Skittles bag at and a hungry albino alligator on the loose, Ride or Die manages to ensure that these movies are actually getting dumber since Bay, which is an achievement you have to respect. A parasitic tic in the brain is by definition a bug not a feature, and yet the increasing stupidity here knowingly, charmingly and successfully continues to burrow its way deeper; not only into our brains, but into our hearts.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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