Bad Boys: Ride Or Die Review: Is This A Rewrite Of An Abandoned Fast & Furious Sequel?

A film for the diehard fans and the diehard fans alone.

Will Smith as Mike and Martin Lawrence as Marcus hiding in a shootout in Bad Boys: Ride Or Die
(Image: © Sony Pictures)

As far as franchises go, Bad Boys is not a series that is built for a great deal of growth. Although the first movie came out nearly 30 years ago, Detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are not characters the audience expects much from as far as evolution – they are forever freewheeling cops who never hesitate to explore violence as their go-to option – and their jurisdiction keeps them mostly on the streets of and in the air above Miami as they do battle with drug dealers and crime kingpins. The storytelling in the films has never been creatively rich… and yet, the canon still manages to hit a nadir with the fourth installment.

Bad Boys: Ride Or Die

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith fist bump on the water in Bad Boys: Ride or Die.

(Image credit: Frank Masi / Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.)

Release Date: June 7, 2024
Directed By: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah
Written By: Chris Bremner & Will Beall
Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Paola Núñez, Eric Dane, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhea Seehorn, Jacob Scipio, Tiffany Haddish, and  Joe Pantoliano
Rating: R for strong violence, language throughout and some sexual references
Runtime: 115 minutes

Directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, Bad Boys: Ride Or Die gets off to a questionable start by featuring a first act that feels like a carbon copy of Bad Boys For Life (the protagonists zooming around Miami on the way to a family-centric event that concludes with a near-death scare), but things don’t improve once it tries to launch its own “original” plot. The script by Chris Bremner and Will Beall mostly amounts to a remix of elements from some of the weakest chapters of the Fast & Furious franchise – and while that does lead to opportunities for some wild and explosive action sequences with outstanding and unique cinematography, that coolness is drowned out by the more significant creative bankruptcy.

After reintroducing the main characters by having Mike getting married and Marcus having a heart attack at the wedding reception, the film revisits the death of Captain Conrad Howard (Joe Pantoliano) from Bad Boys For Life and reveals that his assassination was not a result of that movie’s cartel revenge plot. Upending that assumption is a video recorded before the captain’s demise in which he discloses to his favorite detectives he had been quietly investigating colleagues with cartel connections in the Miami Police Department, and word of his investigation getting out leads to him being murdered and posthumously framed as corrupt.

Wanting to clear Howard’s name, Mike and Marcus set about trying to find the moles in their department, and this means turning to Armando Aretas (Jacob Scipio) – Mike’s son who murdered Howard on orders from the cartel and knows the identity of who ordered the hit. Unfortunately, their efforts result in them being framed for crimes as well, and they have to go about finding the truth while also being on the lam.

Action sequences aside, Bad Boys: Ride Or Die is in the running for most generic film of 2024.

Fans of the series will note that there is an effort made in Bad Boys: Ride Or Die to tie the story to past adventures, with the return of key supporting characters from Bad Boys For Life and reference to the MDMA bust from 2003 (a.k.a. the plot of Bad Boys 2), but that’s ultimately all the movie really has going for it as an interesting extension of the franchise, as it otherwise feels generic and filled with details cribbed from other blockbuster sequels. 

With zero setup, Mike goes from being a fearless confirmed bachelor to a deeply in love married man who gets on the job panic attacks (a detail that is only included when convenient for tension and otherwise wholly unexplored), and Marcus is given Tyrese Gibson’s storyline from F9 and becomes convinced that he is immortal.

It’s tough to see the two heroes fail to arouse meaningful inspiration in the filmmakers, but there is at least some energy applied, which is more than can be said for the new faces in the supporting cast who are given nothing to work with. After years of phenomenal work on Better Call Saul, Rhea Seehorn is stuck in a lifeless role as Captain Howard’s daughter, an out-of-the-loop U.S. Marshal who spends most of the movie tracking and failing to catch Mike, Marcus and Armando while being nonsensically convinced of their guilt. 

At the very least, that’s more than what Eric Dane and Ioan Gruffudd are employed for; the former portrays a cruel blank slate main villain who doesn’t even get a name until the third act, and the latter plays a politician who mostly just sits around in the background waiting for an exceptionally obvious third act reveal.

Directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah continue to demonstrate thrilling and special style with the action in Bad Boys: Ride Or Die.

It’s a shame that the script for Bad Boys: Ride Or Die is so incompetent because Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, in collaboration with cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert and editors Asaf Eisenberg and Dan Lebental, continue to demonstrate exceptional flair and style as action directors. There are some sequences where things get a bit too frenetic (specifically a fight scene that plays out in a crashing tandem-rotor aircraft), but for the most part, it’s easy to appreciate that the filmmakers often opt for bizarre choices and camera angles. The crowning achievement is a third act battle that sees a zipping battlefield drone zoom into a first person shooter perspective before flipping around for an intense bodymount shot.

There are cool swings in moments both big and small, including a wild journey through space and time as Marcus experiences his heart attack, and it keeps the energy in the movie up amid everything that is so terribly groan-worthy.

Keeping in mind that this is a franchise that launched with Michael Bay at the helm, I fully understand that the diehards are not going into Bad Boys: Ride Or Die with a particular expectation for high-powered action that is fueled by a smart and clever screenplay… and this film is almost exclusively for them. Those with a more tepid relationship with this canon will clearly see that despite the action sequences successfully raising heart rates, everything else about it is running out of steam. Little common ground will likely be found between those two halves of the movie-going audience, but at the very least, there will probably be some agreement between both sides labeling it the worst of the series.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.