Film Review: Bad Boys: Ride or Die honours series nostalgia as much as it creatively projects forward

Whilst this is a franchise that has indulged in its fair share of overtly-violent set-pieces for close to three decades now, there’s something to be said for the fact that Bad Boys: Ride or Die – the fourth in this surprisingly resilient series – is determined to keep the action on hand ageing gracefully.

Yes, this film alone isn’t exactly graceful in the traditional sense – the wild finale opts to include a deadly albino alligator for good measure – and I’m sure there’ll be many that may be coming at this with hesitation as to how they truly feel about star Will Smith and supporting him post-Oscar slap, but for a series that was built on a certain outdated look at masculinity, the self-awareness that directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah have injected allow this fourth iteration to sit comfortably in a space that parodies Michael Bay‘s original as much as it honours that nostalgia.

It also reiterates how bombastically misguided it was to cull Adil and Bilall’s vision of the cancelled Batgirl movie.  No matter how bad the big wigs at Warner Bros. would like us to believe that film apparently was, the exciting camera work they flex here – which includes point-of-view shots from the perspective of a travelling drone and Smith’s own weapon – speaks to a creativity that’s above the usual genre director standard.

The duo’s directing prowess is unfortunately not paired with a script to match, with Chris Bremmer and Will Beall‘s screenplay likely standing as the series’ most pedestrian thus far.  It’s a mix of situational humour and in-house conspiracy, with a villain (Eric Dane) that fails to stand against the scene-chewing personalities we’ve been so far gifted; Dane looks the part, without question, but there’s a certain cold stiffness to him that doesn’t excite in the way a film like this needs.

Given that Smith’s now-married and matured Mike Lowery and Martin Lawrence‘s comedically-inclined Marcus Burnett see their beloved captain’s legacy tainted – Joe Pantoliano returning as the deceased Captain Howard in convenient confessional videos – Ride or Die very much follows a pattern that rarely surprises, but, nonetheless, entertains.

These films have always banked their enjoyment factor on Smith and Lawrence’s back-and-forth, and here is no exception, and it very much seems that any inkling that the younger team introduced in 2020’s Bad Boys For Life would be carrying the torch has been snuffed, with the returning Vanessa Hudgens and Alexander Ludwig, as Advanced Miami Metro Operations weapons expert Kelly and tech expert Dorn, respectively, mere action padding; Charles Melton opting not to return here, with the snubbed Oscar nominee‘s character not even garnering a mention.

Ultimately, we don’t want (or need) anyone else to adopt the Bad Boys mantra (“We ride together. We die together.”) as Smith and Lawrence more than prove that, even after all these years, their balancing act of brawn and barbs will elevate the most standard of narratives; the only exception to that rule is if a fifth film opts to enhance the presence of Reggie (Dennis Greene), Marcus’ son-in-law, and a long-running joke-related character, who truly surprises with one dedicated sequence here that is likely to stand as the most crowd-rousing.

After the series earned such a drastic turnaround in quality between 2003’s Bad Boys II and 2020’s Bad Boys For Life, it can’t help but seem a little disappointing that this third sequel didn’t experience a similar bump, but, rather than begrudge the film for its evident faults, it’s easier to embrace Ride or Die for the unbridled genre fun it adheres to.


Bad Boys: Ride or Die is screening in Australian theatres from June 6th, 2024.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.