MOVIES

Bad Boys: Ride Or Die Review

The “Fast & Furious” films have created a blueprint for outmoded film series to expand their horizons by accepting their new place in the landscape. The same way some racing enthusiasts went from stealing DVD players to putting a car in outer space, “Bad Boys” has gone from being two buddy cops breaking all the rules, to elder statesmen wrestling with middle age and the evolving face of law enforcement. In “Bad Boys For Life,” we saw the cast expand to the hotshot, tech-enthusiast special team AMMO (featuring younger stars like Alexander Ludwig and Vanessa Hudgens), throwing more players into the mix to help reduce the amount of stunt work the aging Mike Lowery (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) must engage in. 

Last time out, it was Mike who had a near death experience and a mid-life crisis, refusing to grow up — and Marcus, now a grandfather, begging him to accept the present. In “Bad Boys: Ride or Die,” it’s Marcus who nearly bites the big one as a result of his refusal to take his health more seriously. But he returns from the beyond with newfound insight into his soul-tie to his partner and a false sense of immortality after their slain Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) tells him it’s not his time yet. Some sketchy villains (led by Eric Dane) are posthumously framing Howard, and only Mike and Marcus can clear his name. In the ensuing adventure, they end up having to work with Mike’s illegitimate son Armando (Jacob Scipio) while on the run from Captain Howard’s U.S. Marshall daughter Judy (Rhea Seehorn). The ensemble, amidst all the MacGuffins and twists, gets ample time to shine. There’s even a spotlight for Marcus’ put upon son-in-law Reggie (Dennis Greene) that made this reviewer’s screening audience erupt as if the portals from “Avengers: Endgame” were opening up.

The film’s plot works well enough and the characterization is pretty threadbare, but the cast are all having a blast and filling in the blanks with pure charm. Lawrence, in particular, cuts loose more than he has in years, mining Marcus’ newfound spirituality for plenty of laughs. But the key is, when there’s enough of a breather in all the bullets and explosions for some serious emotions to be addressed, he seamlessly brings the film’s heart to the fore. It’s the sort of impressive work that is only possible with the combination of experience and being unafraid to laugh at yourself for the age it took to acquire it.

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