Skip To Content

Bad Boys Ride or Die (2024)

The first scenes of Bad Boys Ride or Die (2024) are Miami beaches with beautiful bikini-clad women, oh, and a screeching Porsche which speeds down a beachfront avenue, with Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) in the front seats. As usual, the best friends are bickering and late for a very important event. But Marcus wants, no needs, to stop at a corner store for something really important. What, you ask? Well, a ginger ale. Mike tells him he has ninety seconds. But once inside, Marcus is sidelined by Skittles and day-old hot dogs until a white male criminal decides to hold up the establishment at gunpoint.

Enter Mike who seems to be more upset about Marcus’ slowness, sugar addition, and hot-dog-eating, than the frantic gun-wielding man. “Do you want to deal with him or me?” he barks, after which Marcus excuses himself and moves towards the door only to tackle the criminal and draw his weapon in synch with Mike. If you’ve seen the other three Bad Boys movies (1995, 2003, and 2020) this scene likely sounds familiar. Ride or Die innovates, but also reworks key narratives, themes, and scenes from the previous three films which cemented the series as one of the most beloved and profitable action movie franchises in Hollywood history (yes, friends, over a billion dollars and counting). As a reminder, the Bad Boys franchise emerged in the footsteps of another Hollywood superstar’s pioneering work on the cop action-comedy movie genre. That trailblazer is Mr. Eddie Murphy, without whose character Axel Foley in the Beverly Hills Cop franchise (1984, 1987, 1994, and now 2024), Bad Boys, Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan’s Rush Hour, Bruce Willis’ Die Hard, and Mel Gibson and Danny Glover’s Lethal Weapon (need we go on), would not exist. But Lawrence and Smith bring a magical chemistry to the screen in a genre that has been long dominated by white men (or a white male lead and a black male sidekick). All this to say, we’re glad to have these two superstars back in action together and kicking ass in this storied buddy-cop franchise written by Chris Bremner, Will Beall, and George Gallo, and directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah.

But back to the plot…. where are Mike and Marcus headed in such a hurry? To Mike’s wedding! Come again? For the tried-and-true franchise fans, you’ll know that Smith’s Mike Lowrey has been characterized by his commanding masculinity, sex appeal, attractiveness to the opposite sex, and his reluctance to settle down. It is not that he has lied to women about his unavailability, but unavailable he has been, whether with Téa Leoni’s Julie Mott in the first film, or Gabrielle Union’s Syd Burnett in the second, Mike’s relationships don’t last. Perhaps that’s because he has a deep-seated anxiety about abandonment, something that rears its ugly, ill-timed head in the form of panic attacks in this latest film. But we digress.

Yes, Mike Lowrey gets hitched in the opening frames of Bad Boys Ride or Die, to a gorgeous black British woman named Christine (Melaine Liburd) who we quickly find out was the physical therapist who helped him recover after he was shot by his African-Latino son, Armando (Jacob Scipio) in the third film. But as if his marriage was not enough of a shocker, the real drama happens at the wedding reception. It is while Marcus is giving his best man toast, which includes a hilarious recounting of Mike’s failed relationships featuring a prostitute (the escort Max Logan played by the stunning Karen Alexander in the first Bad Boys), the bruja (that’s witch in Spanish) and mother of his adult drug dealer, incarcerated son Armando (Isabel Aretas played by Kate del Castillo), and Marcus’ sister Syd, that all hell breaks loose. When the party really gets going and the dancing kicks into high gear, Marcus collapses from a heart attack. The scene is at once alarming and visually stunning as Mike rushes to administer CPR and their colleague and new boss, the beautiful and commanding Rita (Paola Nuñez) calls for an ambulance. Marcus however has left his body, crashed through the floor and sunk into a dark watery abyss akin to the “sunken place” in Jordan Peele’s game-changing Get Out (2017). Soon after, he is on a dark beach where a tropical bird perches on the trunk of a dry and leafless tree. But he is not alone. When a man turns to face him, it is Captain Howard, their beloved leader who was killed, shockingly, by Armando in the franchise’s third installment. What wisdom does he impart to Marcus? Well, we’re privy to the first part, “it’s not your time,” but the rest of the message is whispered into Marcus’ ear as the two embrace. Thus, when Marcus awakes in a hospital bed it is with a renewed sense of purpose. He tells Mike that there’s a storm coming and that he’ll soon be faced with a hard choice, something that’s not revealed until the film’s final action scene. But Marcus also awakes with a rather reckless sense of invincibility, since, as the captain said, “it’s not your time.” He imprudently tests this spiritual theory multiple times throughout the movie, at first standing bare ass on the ledge of the hospital roof and later walking backwards into traffic, to Mike’s horror.

The plot of Ride or Die is about the corruption orchestrated by drug cartels, police, and politicians on the heels of 9/11. But who better to pin bad deeds on than a dead man? Dead men don’t talk, or do they? Well, this one does. The deceased Captain Howard speaks to Mike and Marcus from beyond the grave after his computer is hacked triggering the delivery of a coded video message. Why does this happen? Well, the bad guys, a combination of politicians, the cartel and the American mercenaries who do their bidding, kill a not so reputable businessman after forcing him to send and back date wire transfers to Captain Howard, making it look like he accepted millions of dollars of drug money as a bribe. He didn’t of course, but the Miami PD (including Rita) her wannabe mayor boyfriend Lockwood (Ioan Gruffudd), and the FBI all jump to the worst possible conclusions. So, at its core, the movie is the journey of how Mike and Marcus team up to clear their fallen captain’s good name. Also in the picture is Judy (Rhea Seehorn), the captain’s daughter who happens to be a US Marshall and although friendly enough with Mike to attend his wedding with her teenage daughter Callie (Quinn Hemphill), she has not forgotten that it was Mike’s “bastard son” who murdered her father.

Ride or Die delivers with the pulse-pounding chase scenes, heart-racing shoot outs, and pay-attention plot twists that have made the franchise so bankable. But is also takes time to explore the hilarity and tenderness of the bond between Mike and Marcus which is far more than colleagues or friends. Their brotherhood shines in multiple moments of the film, whether its Mike’s refusal to provide the junk food snacks that Marcus still craves (even after his heart attack), Marcus advising Mike to talk on an emotional level with his son, or Marcus sharing his recent knowledge of the various ways the two have been bonded across lifetimes (in one incarnation, Mike was a donkey and Marcus was his abusive owner). They are soulmates you see. That is the biggest takeaway of Marcus’ near-death experience and something he struggles to impart to Mike throughout the film.

Much of the action unfurls after Captain Howard’s video message directs them to the Coke-bottle-giant, Howard’s reference to the thick eyeglasses of the super-tech genius Fletcher (John Salley, also of Bad Boys 1 and 2), who Howard entrusted with information that would allow Mike and Marcus to crack the case. But the bad guys, led by McGrath (Eric Dane), are onto them and arrive at Fletcher’s digital art gallery to eliminate the threat to their plans, aka Mike and Marcus. One of the most hilarious scenes plays out in the ensuing gun battle when a bowl of jelly beans and a glass jug of iridescent red “drink” are pierced by bullets, raining candy and liquid sugar down on Marcus who is crouched beside the table, dodging bullets. But in the aftermath of his treat-deprived, post-heart attack home life, his fear is momentarily overcome by the joy of a waterfall of sugar and he sticks out his tongue to indulge in the sweetness as Barry White croons Can’t Get Enough of your Love, Babe (1974).

When the shootout spills into the street and onto a Miami highway, Mike uncharacteristically fumbles his gun, losing the cartridge of bullets and bending down to retrieve it as McGrath drives a van towards him. But Marcus scoops him out of the road in a flash, saving his life, much as Mike did for him in Bad Boys (1995). As the two stand up, side-by-side, breathless, and sweaty, their monumentalized figures fill the frame of the quintessential, close-up “Bad Boys” shot made famous in the first film.

Back at Fletcher’s gallery, Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens) a weapons expert for Miami PD’s tactical unit, discovers a QR code hidden in one of Fletcher’s art works. It leads to another Captain Howard video in which he explains that he had been tracking corrupt activities and secreting away documents after he pulled Ruiz (Julio Oscar Mechoso) and Sanchez (Nestor Serrano) out of retirement to assist on the case. Both turned up dead shortly after the assignment.

Once McGrath realizes that Armando (who was sent to kill Captain Howard, not because of his mother’s vengeance but because of Howard’s  investigative prowess), can ID him, he sends prisoners to murder him in jail. As corrupt guards leave their posts to facilitate the hit, Armando dispenses with the shank-wielding villains by turning the weights in the prison yard into weapons. Pivotally, Mike appeals to Rita to get Armando out of jail temporarily to spare his life and allow him to make amends by assisting in the identification of Captain Howards’ killer, McGrath. Rita reluctantly agrees letting Mike know the seriousness of the request.

One of the most adrenaline-fueled scenes is the prisoner transport that takes place on a military helicopter on which Armando is literally locked in a cage in a standing position. Unbeknownst to Armando, Mike, and Marcus, the prisoner escort team has been infiltrated by McGrath and Co. who force the pilot to send a fake distress call (naming Mike and Marcus as the criminals who have hijacked the plane) before slitting his throat. The bad guys then emerge from the cockpit intent on murdering the trio before parachuting to safety. Luckily, their plan goes sideways as Mike and Marcus fight back, battling to keep Armando’s cage from plummeting out of the back of the chopper, the rear door of which has been opened by McGrath to facilitate his escape. But keeping the cage on the plane is one thing, freeing Armando from it is another! As Mike finally fits the key into the door of the metal bars and pulls Armando free, the cage is sucked violently out the back of the chopper. But Armando’s rescue is what saves the trio since he slows their descent and ensures their survival as they crash land in water. As Marcus exclaims when Armando sits confidently in the copilot’s seat and barks instructions at him, “where the hell did you learn how to fly?”. Armando’s matter-of-fact reply? “I’m a drug dealer man.”

Once they land, Armando is determined to leave them behind, but Mike restrains him, the two locking arms with force. Marcus physically intervenes, trying to get between them, chiming in, “That Lowrey DNA is a bitch, Y’all some strong mothafuckas!” Recognizing that the conspiracy runs deep if the criminals can infiltrate a prisoner transport, they understand that they’ve been set up and are now fugitives. Indeed, not only do they have a $5 million bounty on their heads from the criminals who realize they’ve survived the crash, but the Miami PD, the FBI, and the US Marshalls (led by a vengeful Judy) are also hunting them. Let the games begin!

The opportunistic people who emerge to take advantage of their misfortune include Manny (DJ Khaled), the criminal turned butcher who was roughed up by Mike (in Bad Boys For Life 2020) and Tabitha (Tiffany Haddish) the strip club madame who gleefully informs Mike that she expects a little tit for tat for any help she offers. By the way, tit for tat means “eating her pussy,” something that Marcus cheerfully directs Mike to do. Married Mike refuses of course. But Tiffany’s help does not materialize. Instead, after she and her female strippers pull guns on the trio, gangsters barge into the private room to cart them off. A deal has clearly been struck for the money and as one gangster announces, they need to fall in line because the bounty says, “dead or alive”.

While we won’t say how, the trio escape and team up with Kelly and Dorn (Alexander Ludwig) a Miami PD tactical team tech expert, to ID McGrath. But after Mike fills Rita in, her conversation with a supposedly trusty insider reveals his role in the whole sordid affair when he tips off McGrath who promptly sends baddies to their homes to kill their families or take them hostage. Luckily, Marcus’ inconspicuous, US Marine, badass son-in-law Reggie McDonald (Dennis Greene), does away with fifteen baddies who arrive to attack the Burnetts including Marcus’ wife Theresa (now played by Tasha Smith) and his pregnant daughter Megan (Bianca Bethune). But Christine and Callie (who popped in for a visit) aren’t as lucky when McGrath and Co. arrive at the Lowreys home to spirit them off to the bad guys’ lair, an abandoned theme park with a 16-foot, 900-pound, albino alligator named Duke. Obviously, somebody’s gonna get eaten!

It’s also obvious that Christine and Callie need to be rescued, but since it is unclear who is or is not a part of the conspiracy, with Marcus, Armando, Rita, Kelly and Dorn huddled, Mike announces, “I don’t trust anybody who’s not standing right here, right now.” No SWAT, no Marshalls, no backup!

Bad Boys Ride or Die is arguably the best film in this storied franchise. Our knowledge of the main characters, their hopes, dreams, passions, talents, loves, and eccentricities make them all the more endearing, and Lawrence’s and Smith’s depiction of Marcus and Mike’s devoted friendship puts us at the edge of our seats when either is in trouble.

The hilarity of the franchise’s racial humour is still exploited with the punchlines generally at the racist’s expense. When as fugitives Marcus, Mike, and Armando stumble upon a trailer park and scavenge for clothes, they are set upon by two gun-toting rednecks (a confederate flag hangs in the background) who catch them in the act. Hilariously, Marcus charges the pair with racism for assuming that black men were stealing although, as Mike notices, the shirt Marcus had donned reads “Purebred Whiteboy”. Looking at Mike’s stolen Reba McEntire shirt (featuring a portrait of the red-headed white female country star), the white men then challenge the pair to sing a Reba song, to which they respond with lyrics about being a strong black woman before singing the lyrics to the franchise theme song Bad Boys (1987) by Inner Circle.

On the downside, although the film is rated R, for such a wonderfully attractive group of actors, there are no love scenes, between Marcus and Theresa, the newlyweds Mike and Christine, or even the hot new couple Kelly and Dorn. The lack of onscreen intimacy between Mike and Christine means that the audience must rely upon their recent marital status (as opposed to any evidence of their onscreen chemistry) to assume the depth of their mutual terror when Christine gets kidnapped.

But interestingly, where the intimacy and emotional growth is revealed is in the relationships between males who share tender moments. A guilt-ridden Mike apologizes to Armando because bad shit happens to those he loves, and an unusually pensive and vulnerable Armando asks Mike if he ever loved his mother.

There is obvious tension between Mike and Armando throughout the entire movie. If you’ve seen Bad Boys for Life (2020), you’ll understand why. But there are also signs of emotional resolution and connection which for two vigorously masculine black men who are (although for different reasons) emersed in violent worlds, is a powerful statement. In the scene before the final action sequence Armando, who has emerged a hero saving Callie, bravely offers to trade his life for Christine’s saying, “I’ll go, let my life be worth something.”  Mike’s response, with a hand on his son’s chest, “Never, never.”

As much and Mike and Marcus get under each other’s skin, their interactions reveal that they are indeed soulmates who know each other better than anyone else, spouses included. After Mike’s words of caution to the team (before they storm the baddies’ lair) he stands alone by the water’s edge with only Marcus by his side. Glancing over at his partner, Marcus begins to sing, “Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do,” to which Mike shakes his head negatively, “uh uh”. You see, the song for them is comic relief, release, a means of connection, and a symbol of the longevity of their relationship and the depth of their commitment to justice and each other, Ride or Die. Feeling Mike’s anxiety, Marcus encourages him to sing along and together, “Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha going do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you?” They look at each other, some anxiety relieved, but the fear still palpable. Marcus continues to sing, “ke snick, ke snick, co snick neh hey.” He never did learn the lyrics!