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Movie Review: “Bad Boys: Ride or Die”

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          I’m not going to go into a lot of depth about the story in “Bad Boys: Ride or Die.” Miami detectives Mike Lowery (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are back to have another cop adventure. They do some investigating, clash with superiors, run afoul of bad guys, the bad guys endanger their loved ones, and then there’s a big showdown with the bad guys at the end. There’s no suspense in predicting that the movie will stick to that formula. The real suspense comes from wondering what the action scenes will entail, what jokes will be cracked, and, this being a “Bad Boys” movie, how ridiculous it will all be. With that in mind, I have some thoughts…

            -Will Smith is back! The A-lister’s career has gone through some major ups and downs the past few years, with the pinnacle of each coming at the same Oscars ceremony. He was unofficially suspended from the limelight for a while, but this movie marks his comeback. And I’m glad to have him back, with his blockbuster presence as strong as ever, if not with a sharper edge. Fans are eager to find out if and how the film will address Smith’s real-life bad boy behavior. I’ll give you this tease: someone gets slapped in this movie.

            -Martin Lawrence is back too. I don’t have much to say for his star power, but I will praise his performance. Marcus suffers a heart attack early in the movie and spends much of his screentime spouting apparent nonsense about his experience in a coma. In the time since I saw this movie, I have encountered no fewer than two individuals on the New York City subway with similar tendencies. They made me appreciate Lawrence’s cadences in this movie. I don’t know if it’s research or just keen observation, but he’s really got it down.

            -The evil plan of bad guy McGrath (Eric Dane) involves framing Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano), Marcus and Mike’s longtime superior who was killed in the last movie. The plan makes zero sense, since it draws attention and scrutiny to crimes that probably would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Howard himself has a sizeable presence in the movie, with everything from memorial photos and news footage to pre-recorded messages and appearances during near-death experiences. We know the characters miss him, but how can we miss him if he won’t go away?

            -Howard warns Mike and Marcus that there’s been a decades-long cartel mole in Miami. Realistically, how many characters could this be? Fellow team members played by Vanessa Hudgens and Alexander Ludwig are too young. Howard’s daughter (Rhea Seehorn) is a U.S. Marshall that probably doesn’t even live in Miami. I suppose it could be new captain Secada (Paola Nuñez), but I can’t help but notice that she’s engaged to a smarmy politician (Ioan Gruffudd). Does the movie realize which of these two is the obvious suspect and who would count as subversive?

            -To get information on the mole, Mike and Marcus have to interview Mike’s imprisoned son Armando (Jacob Scipio) from the last movie. Eventually the three have to work together to combat the bad guys. I was skeptical about bringing Armando back, thinking that the character might not be interesting enough to span multiple movies. But I had nothing to worry about, Scipio makes a good action hero, better than he did a villain.

            -But Armando’s return has nothing on Reggie (Dennis McDonald), Marcus’s notoriously-bullied, seemingly-unmotivated son-in-law. Turns out Mike isn’t the only one with a family member with action chops. As I was leaving this movie, nobody was talking about Will Smith, everybody was talking about Reggie. And I’ll say that Reggie is just what the movie needs to bump it up to a recommendation. I was on the fence about where I stood on the whole “it’s dumb, but it’s supposed to be dumb” attitude that these movies embrace. But with Reggie, “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” has enough heart to cover the missing brain.

Grade: B-

“Bad Boys: Ride or Die” is rated R for strong violence, language throughout and some sexual references.