review

Bad Boys 4: Still some juice left in Will Smith and Martin Lawrence buddy cop action-comedy

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence go for another ride in the fourth Bad Boys movie
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence go for another ride in the fourth Bad Boys movie Credit: Sony Pictures

In January 2020, Bad Boys for Life, the third instalment of the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence buddy cop action comedy now-franchise was released, but you’d be forgiven if you only have a vague memory of this.

It was two months before the world went into Covid lockdown but there were already news reports and general unease something big was coming. So maybe a return to Miami with Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey wasn’t top of mind.

It had been 17 years since the previous instalment and while the first two movies are remembered fondly by certain moviegoers, it’s not like there was a massive movement agitating for a sequel. But we got one anyway, and it made decent buck, so, inevitably, there’s now a fourth movie.

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Directing pair Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah took over from Michael Bay with the 2020 movie and they’re back for another round. For fans of Bad Boys’ over-the-top, guns-blazing, kaboom action, El Arbi and Fallah are natural successors to Bay’s maximalist style.

It’s cacophonous and mind-numbing, like being assaulted by a screaming eight-year-old with a pool noodle. It’s annoying but you also can’t quite stop it because it’s your boss’ kid and you don’t want to jeopardise that pay-rise by chastising their devil’s spawn.

But it’s a vibe, and it’s one fans opt in to. There are few surprises with Bad Boys: Ride or Die – you know what you’ve signed up to, and it’s more or less what you get. Something with bants, explosions, gun-fights and an overuse of Gravitron-esque swirling camera moves. Oh, and a big-arse alligator. That was cool.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence go for another ride in the fourth Bad Boys movie
Mike and Marcus are still on the job. Credit: Sony Pictures

Now in their 50s, Mike and Marcus are still on the frontlines of Miami PD. Mike turned in his bachelor’s licence and is now married and Marcus is recovering from a heart attack, but while under, he has a vision that convinces him he’s invincible.

The action kicks off when their late boss Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano), who was killed in the third movie, is framed for corruption by crooked cops working with the cartels. Mike and Marcus know Howard was decent people and set out to discover who is setting him up now, and who’s responsible for his death.

Complications abound, of course, and there are SO MANY CHARACTERS you have to keep track of, including Mike’s wife Christine (Melanie Liburd), his murderous son Armando (Jacob Scipio), now police captain Rita (Paola Nunez), her husband and mayoral candidate (Ioan Gruffudd), colleagues Kelly (Vanessa Hudgens) and Dorn (Alexander Ludwig), Howard’s daughter and US Marshall Judy (Rhea Seehorn) and the Big Bad (Eric Dane).

Screengrabs from the Trailer for the movie, Bad Boys: Ride or DIe. Starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.
Ride or Die is the fourth Bad Boys movie. Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment/Youtube

The best supporting role goes to Dennis Mcdonald who plays Marcus’s son-in-law Reggie, a US marine with mad skills. He plays it completely straight and the scene with him in action, and Mike and Marcus’s reactions, is the highlight of the film.

With Smith mostly still in movie jail after his violent onstage assault of Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars, it’s hard to separate that act with everything going on in Bad Boys 4. Also, what’s an appropriate exile period for Smith’s social crime? Was two years enough? Should it be more like five?

Certainly, trying to decouple the movie from the Oscars debacle wasn’t helped by a scene with Lawrence repeatedly slapping Smith out of a panic attack. If it wasn’t an intentional nod (and if it was, ick, no), then it was a dumb oversight.

The heart of the Bad Boys movies was never about the pyrotechnics — and the use of a first-person shooter POV in the climactic action set-piece is gross, can we please move on from this glorification of gun violence by putting the weapon in the audience’s hand?

It’s always been about the dynamic between Lawrence and Smith. Lawrence is goofy and Smith is cool. But the characters love each other and even though the jokes aren’t very sharp, it’s still a delight to watch their interactions.

It’s the only reason why Bad Boys has any juice left.

Rating: 2.5/5

Bad Boys for Life is in cinemas now

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