Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so is whether or not you’re going to enjoy Bad Boys: Ride or Die, the fourth entry into the Bad Boys franchise starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as a pair of wise-cracking but tough Miami detectives. 


Ride or Die is a direct sequel to 2020’s Bad Boys for Life, a film that I have absolutely no memory of yet definitely saw, which makes the first few minutes of Ride or Die somewhat confusing as I did not remember who anyone was. But then, Ride or Die isn’t about characters, it’s about style and vibes and comedy, and if you’re willing to abandon yourself to that, it’s a good enough time.

If you are not a Bad Boys fan willing to be carried on shootouts and the combined charisma of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, though, Ride or Die is tedious, the “old man” jokes of the previous film quickly become tired, and a reference to Will Smith’s “slap” meltdown at the Oscars seems in even poorer taste combined with the intimation that “bad boys” don’t suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. These later additions to the franchise cling to Michael Bay’s hypermasculine characterizations but lack his sense of irony to undercut the glorification of violence and manly men defeating everyone and everything with the power of testosterone.


Bad Boys for Life directors Adil & Bilall return with their copious bag of visual tricks, incorporating everything from pans homaging Bay’s famous style to videogame influenced first-person perspective, to drone shots, to an admittedly great John Wick reference. A running joke(?) shows supercops Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Smith) dismissing and disrespecting Marcus’s son-in-law, Reggie (Dennis Greene), a Marine home on leave. To Mike and Marcus, Reggie is straitlaced and boring, but when push comes to shove, he has skills Mike and Marcus can only dream of. It’s a good bit, with a solid setup and follow-through.


Much of the humor amounts to nothing more than Lawrence and Smith shouting at each other about how old they’re getting, or poking fun at Mike’s newly developed panic attacks. Lawrence and Smith do have such great chemistry, that again, if you just surrender to the tide, it will carry you on the dumb-fun wave of Ride or Die. The relaunched version of Bad Boys continues to feel like a Fast/Furious knock-off (even though the original Bad Boys predates The Fast and the Furious by six years). Family is tantamount, and everyone is literally related. The convict Mike and Marcus need to clear their names is Mike’s estranged son, the US Marshal hunting Mike and Marcus is the daughter of their late police captain, everyone’s ex is somehow connected to a villain.


Oh yeah, the plot of Ride or Die involves Mike and Marcus, along with their deceased captain played by Joe Pantoliano, being framed, as all cop franchises inevitably do. Does anyone watch these movies for the plot, though? As with Fast/Furious, I suspect not.

Adil & Bilall are not bad directors, but their frantic visual style added to the literally high-volume antics of Smith and Lawrence quickly turns Ride or Die into an exhausting experience. It feels less balanced than Bad Boys for Life, which is saying something because that film barely has a functioning structure of story and character development. But it at least tries to push the characters of Mike and Marcus into new territory, Ride or Die simply treads water, coasting on the audience’s rapport with Smith and Lawrence to sell the bit. 


Ride or Die kind of feels like if Danson and Highsmith, the parodical supercop characters from The Other Guys, got an entire movie of their own. Fans of Bad Boys, fans of Smith and Lawrence, and fans of Adil & Bilall will likely find plenty to like in these proceedings, but everyone else will be left in the cold. Of course, by the fourth entry, franchises are rarely trying to lure new fans, just play to the existing ones, so in that regard Bad Boys: Ride or Die is, well, ride or die with its fanbase. 

Bad Boys: Ride or Die is now playing exclusively in theaters.