'Bad Boys: Ride or Die' review: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence find their 'souls'

Kristofer Purnell - Philstar.com
'Bad Boys: Ride or Die' review: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence find their 'souls'
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in 'Bad Boys: Ride or Die'
Columbia Pictures

MANILA, Philippines — Not many buddy cop franchises can claim to last nearly three decades, something that Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are out to prove on their own with "Bad Boys: Ride or Die."

Picking up after the events of 2020's "Bad Boys for Life," Smith's Mike Lowry and Lawrence's Marcus Burnett are dealing with personal issues outside of their years-long partnership.

Lowry is newly-wed but suffering from panic attacks, meanwhile heart attack survivor Burnett believes himself immortal after having a "vision" from the late Captain Conrad Howard (again played by Joe Pantoliano).

But when Howard is accussed of cartel ties, the duo set out to clear his name even if it leads them to becoming Miami's most wanted.

Filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah have been a revelation for the "Bad Boys" franchise since getting on board, giving it the fresh juice needed for a new era of action-comedy.

The action scenes are exciting with the different car chases and gun fights, one even akin to a video game level, injected with a surprising amount of octane.

The best of these are led by a returning Jacob Scipio as Armando Aretas, definitely capable of headlining his own action entry, and fan-favorite character Reggie McDonald (Dennis Greene), who is finally given his due.

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The screenplay by Chris Bremner and Will Beall could be better, given how typically generic the story goes and the jokes land more than they fall. Adil and Bilall, however, managed to steer the ship in the right direction.

At the core of the film and the entire franchise is Lowry and Burnett's relationship, which Smith and Lawrence have kept as strong as ever.

Smith continues to show a more vulnerable side of Lowry, while Lawrence, a natural comedian, keeps playing to his strengths to deliver the movie's lighter and laughable moments.

"Better Call Saul" star Rhea Seehorn and "Grey's Anatomy" actor Eric Dane are wasted newcomers despite their obvious talent. Alexander Ludwig and Filipino-American Vanessa Hudgens are also pushed to the back as a result of a weak screenplay.

Bit characters, played by DJ Khaled and Tiffany Haddish, get their moments, but the entire movie would have fallen apart if Smith and Lawrence could not loop everything in.

The film is Smith's biggest project since the infamous Oscars slap, having only done "Emancipation" for Apple since the incident. It is up to  the audience whether the actor can be welcomed back into everyone's good graces.

Hopefully, Adil and Bilall can stay on board to hand Smith and Lawrence another ride because films like "Bad Boys" are a rare breed now.

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