A star rating of 3 out of 5.

When the first Bad Boys movie hit cinemas in 1995, Will Smith was, in a parallel television universe, still the youthful Fresh Prince making mischief in Bel-Air.


Now, almost 30 years later, might he and co-star Martin Lawrence, to quote the mantra of a lead character from another buddy cop franchise, be "too old for this s**t"?

Signs of ageing are evident in the first half-hour of Ride or Die, when Lawrence’s character Marcus Burnett suffers a near-death coronary at partner Mike Lowrey’s wedding, and Mike himself has a panic attack during a shoot-out soon after.

Yet, here they are for a fourth helping of bullets and banter, four years on from Bad Boys for Life, and familiarity with that last film is useful.

Last time out, Miami detectives Mike and Marcus lost their beloved Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano), gunned down by Mike’s wayward drug-dealer son Armando (Jacob Scipio).

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They reappear here, the latter behind bars, and the former in both Marcus’s silly "go-back-it's-not-your-time" post-heart attack fever dream, and in a clandestine "if-you’re-watching-this-I’m-probably-dead" video alerting the bad boys to rum goings-on within the police department.

Armando has information on the cartel pulling corrupt cop strings (and sullying the late captain’s name by making him the centre of wrongdoings), but when M&M are transporting him from prison to make a formal statement their helicopter is attacked, forcing the three of them to become fugitives - our heroes consequently also accused of being in on the illegal stuff.

In a spin worthy of the most melodramatic soap opera, chief among the law folk chasing them is US marshal Rhea Seehorn (Kim Wexler in Netflix’s Better Call Saul), who just happens to be Captain Howard’s daughter.

It’s a convenient though outlandish state of affairs, but seems par for the course in a screenplay that never met a crime flick trope it didn’t like. At one point, mayoral candidate (not to mention would-be contortionist) Ioan Gruffudd tells Burnett and Lowrey, in the same sentence, he’s both sticking his neck out and putting his ass on the line.

Yet, for all the script’s tendencies to present the movie as a particularly expensive game of cliché bingo, Ride or Die still delivers on two fronts. The comic interplay between Smith and Lawrence is as slick and savvy as ever (although Lawrence might have been advised to dial down the buffoonery a notch or two), while the fast-cut action sequences are superbly choreographed.

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Weapons are gleefully discharged at every opportunity, be it in a nightclub packed with candy that seriously challenges Marcus’s new no-sugar diet, an alligator-shaped abandoned amusement park (an unapologetic nod to Scooby-Doo), or Marcus’s scene-stealing soldier son-in-law Reggie (Dennis Greene) single-handedly protecting the Burnett home from a dozen or more armed invaders.

Apart from the two leads, Greene is the only player who makes any kind of deep mark, with Mike’s new bride Melanie Liburd and Marcus’s wife Tasha Smith (replacing Theresa Randle from the earlier instalments) little more than window dressing.

Seehorn’s conflicted captain’s daughter might have been worth fleshing out, especially in the hands of such a nuanced actress, but that arguably would have distracted from the film’s default setting of over-the-top bang and bluster.

Ultimately, Ride or Die opts to carry its emotional baggage light, in favour of white-knuckle thrills. And don’t pick at the plot strings too much, as you’ll find more questions than answers - not least why, after nigh on three decades of selflessly keeping Miami safe from scoundrels, neither Mike nor Marcus have ever been promoted.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die is released in UK cinemas on Wednesday 5th June 2024.


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