Skip to main content

Bad Boys: Ride or Die review: a fun summer action movie

Martin Lawrence talks to Will Smith in Bad Boys: Ride or Die.
Bad Boys: Ride or Die
“Bad Boys: Ride or Die is a fun, if slight, addition to one of Hollywood's most reliable action franchises.”
  • Adil & Bilall's stylish direction
  • Will Smith and Martin Lawrence's enduring comedic chemistry
  • Several entertaining, perfectly cartoonish action set pieces
  • Numerous superfluous subplots and supporting characters
  • A disappointingly bland criminal conspiracy
  • An overly long runtime

In 2018, directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah were assigned what seemed like an impossible task. The duo was hired to direct the long-awaited third installment in the Bad Boys film series, a franchise that owed as much of its initial success to the high-energy, explosive work of director Michael Bay as  it did to the combined star power of its leads, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Following in the footsteps of a director as distinct as Bay wouldn’t have been an easy challenge for any filmmaker to tackle, but that’s exactly what the pair — who go professionally by Adil & Bilall — did. The resulting film, 2020’s Bad Boys for Life, wasn’t quite as invigorating as the first two Bad Boys movies, but it was just as stylish and high on the franchise’s signature, lighthearted vibes.

The same is true of its follow-up, this year’s Bad Boys: Ride or Die. Directed once again by Adil & Bilall, the sequel is an action-packed, kinetic blockbuster that packs a big wallop of forgettable fun. There’s a creative fearlessness coursing throughout Ride or Die that may not fix its script’s many issues, but it does prevent the film from ever devolving into the soul-crushing cash grab that it could have become in less enthusiastic hands. Sometimes, attitude is as important to a movie’s success as anything else. Fortunately, Bad Boys: Ride or Die has plenty to spare.

Martin Lawrence sits on a car hood while Will Smith runs next to him in Bad Boys: Ride or Die.
Sony Pictures Releasing

Bad Boys: Ride or Die begins as it should, with Detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) arguing in a car over the other’s perpetual lateness. After the duo successfully, if accidentally, prevent an absurd convenience store robbery, the film catches back up with Mike as he’s in the midst of exchanging wedding vows with Christine (Melanie Liburd). Their reception is interrupted when Marcus collapses of a heart attack in the middle of the dance floor. While unconscious, Marcus goes on a screwball spiritual journey that not only convinces him that he’s invincible, but goes on to supply Ride or Die‘s second half with most of its funniest jokes.

Just as it looks like Marcus and Mike’s lives are on the verge of settling down, they find out that their late former captain, Conrad Howard (Joe Pantoliano), is being investigated for possible connections to the Mexican cartel. This discovery is followed by a surprise video message from beyond the grave, in which Howard informs them that he was looking into a corrupt official within Miami’s law enforcement ranks before he was killed. He tasks them with unearthing said individual’s identity and clearing his name. Their efforts to do so force Marcus and Mike to go on the run with Mike’s estranged criminal son, Armando Aretas (Jacob Scipio), all while trying to outsmart their villainous pursuer, James McGrath (Eric Dane), a former U.S. soldier turned cartel henchman.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die, in other words, revolves around a fairly by-the-numbers criminal conspiracy plot — one that proves to be even less complicated and more obvious than you’d think based on the film’s opening minutes. To its credit, the sequel does try to pick up where Bad Boys for Life left off by continuing to acknowledge its heroes’ older ages and challenge their hypermasculine images of themselves. Marcus rages against his doctor’s post-heart attack dietary recommendations and uses his near-death experience to convince himself that he can’t die. Mike’s past failures, meanwhile, begin to weigh heavy on him — causing panic attacks that repeatedly rob him of the gung ho, trigger-happy sense of initiative that has long guided him and kept him alive. The two men seem more fragile than they ever have before, and that just makes their friendship and shared, uncomplicated desire to do the right thing seem all the more endearing.

Martin Lawrence holds onto Will Smith's shoulder in Bad Boys: Ride or Die.
Sony Pictures Releasing

The film’s script, penned by Chris Bremner and Will Beall, doesn’t show much interest in Ride or Die‘s characters outside of Mike and Marcus. The sequel’s supporting figures, including Rhea Seehorn’s Judy Howard, aren’t developed enough to warrant the amount of screentime they’re given, nor are its central mysteries complex enough to justify all the detours and subplots that Bremner and Beall’s screenplay packs in. Ride or Die doesn’t ultimately delve all that deeply into Marcus or Mike’s issues, either — resolving both with a pair of climactic gags that reflect the film’s overarching comedic spirit. The movie’s brief cameos, which come courtesy of one-scene performers like Tiffany Haddish and DJ Khaled, only further contribute to the feeling that Ride or Die is both too cluttered and too shallow for its own good.

Thankfully, Adil & Bilall keep the film moving at such a brisk pace from start to finish that it never feels slow, shaggy, or numbingly overstuffed. The duo bring so much style to the film that it comes alive even in spite of its flaws. Practically every scene seems to whip pan into the next, and the filmmakers punctuate Bad Boys: Ride or Die‘s cartoonish action sequences with thrilling stylistic flourishes that let the viewer appreciate each set piece from as many angles and perspectives as possible. Just like they did with Bad Boys for Life, Adil & Bilall have adopted a “more is more” approach for Ride or Die. The result is a movie that is chaotic, but endlessly entertaining, and that feels pleasingly youthful despite the older ages of its stars.

BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE – Official Trailer (HD)

Its underdeveloped script makes it hard to wholeheartedly recommend Bad Boys: Ride or Die, especially when better blockbusters like Furiosa and The Fall Guy are still playing in theaters. It’s an immensely enjoyable way to spend two hours, though, and a sequel that gives Bad Boys fans all the jokes, set pieces, gunfights, and moments of brotherly camaraderie that they could hope for. Whether or not it’ll give Smith’s career the rejuvenating jolt that so many seem to believe it needs is impossible to say, but it does cement the Bad Boys series as one of Hollywood’s most consistent and reliable action franchises of the past 30 years.

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

Editors' Recommendations

Alex Welch
Alex is a TV and movies writer based out of Los Angeles. In addition to Digital Trends, his work has been published by…
5 bad ‘80s action movies that you still need to watch
James Belushi and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Red Heat.

On a good day, a bad action movie can still be entertaining if you go into it knowing what to expect. Sometimes that can be difficult when the '80s had some of the biggest swings in the genre that didn't always work. We've previously gone over the bad action movies from the '90s and the bad action movies from the 2000s. Now, it's finally time to look at the five bad '80s action movies that you still need to watch.

Our picks include one movie each for Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, although neither actor pulls out all the stops in their respective films. Our other choices include a supernatural ninja possession, Eddie Murphy, and Carl Weathers' attempt to become a solo star.
Action Jackson (1988)

Read more
3 great action movies on Tubi you need to watch in November
Denzel Washington stands besides Ethan Hawke while leaning on a car in Training Day.

Have you signed up for Tubi yet? The streamer is considered a FAST service – that stands for free ad-supported streaming television. Tubi offers thousands of movies and TV shows for free. The only catch is that multiple ads will run during each program, similar to commercials on television.

Tubi caters to all types of viewers, with a wide selection of movies and TV shows in every genre. For November, our three movies to watch focus on Tubi's action offerings. They include a crime thriller from Antoine Fuqua, a B-movie that resurrected an actor's career, and a 1980s film that created its own subgenre.
Training Day (2001)

Read more
5 bad 2000s action movies that you still need to watch right now
Christian Bale in Terminator Salvation.

Since the turn of the century, there's been no shortage of action movies. It is, after all, one of the most popular film genres in the world. It may also be one of the hardest to get right since there was no shortage of bad action movies even before streamers like Netflix and Prime Video started making bad action flicks of their own.

So why take the time to watch a bad action movie when you could watch a good one instead? Because sometimes it can be fun to watch bad movies just to laugh at how awful they are. The following list doesn't contain the greatest action movies ever made, but they are still enjoyable enough to give them a watch.
Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002)

Read more