A Throwaway Gag in BAD BOYS 2 Led to the Best Part of the Excellent BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE

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The fourth Bad Boys film may very well be the best in the franchise, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The series surprised fans with 2020’s Bad Boys For Life, returning to the explosive adventures of police detectives Mike (Will Smith) and Marcus (Martin Lawrence) which had been dormant since 2003, under new directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. It was a hit at the box office, barely dodging the pandemic era lockdowns which followed soon after.

That tale introduced new allies in the “AMMO” special tactical team of young tech-savvy police detectives, as well as another compelling character: Armando (Jacob Scipio), the son that Mike didn’t know he had. Like Michael Bay’s prior films, it was packed with explosive action, thrilling chases, and tons of character-driven comedy mostly centered around the chemistry of the film’s leads. And unlike Bay’s films, it had a lot of heart as well.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die feels unique in the franchise in that unlike its neatly episodic predecessors, it’s a direct sequel that picks up on threads from the last one. The plot concerns fallout of the death of Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano), and once again the AMMO squad is back in the mix. When new falsified evidence suggests that the Captain was actually dirty, Mike, Marcus and the crew set out to exonerate him and preserve his legacy. They know Howard wasn’t the traitor – which means someone else is. Armando also returns, now as an ally, and with him an important piece of the film’s heart.

I really just flat out loved this. The humor’s on point. The action rules. It may be my favorite of the series, and I’m on the record as being all-in on Bad Boys 2. There are a lot of great returning characters, not only in terms of the supporting cast but some surprise cameos as well – although one unfortunate exception is that Theresa Randle does not return as Marcus’s wife Theresa, now played by Tasha Smith.

Once again there’s some interestingly framed and designed cinematography on display, and one shootout in particular features an incredible series of first person shooter aesthetics and shifting of perspectives: in one particularly cool shot, Marcus is out of ammo so Mike throws him a gun – and the shot tracks on the firearm as it leaps forward and lands in Marcus’s grip. Even in a series that’s known for inventive and kinetic camera work, it’s an insanely complex sequence that really wowed me.

It wouldn’t be a Bad Boys movie without Marcus having some kind of existential crisis, and this is a particularly fun one. After a near death experience and seeing a vision that it’s not yet his time to die, Marcus experiences a euphoric sense of invincibility – here the film even directly parodies Fearless and its most iconic image.

Fearless (1993) – Warner Bros

As much as I enjoy the original Michael Bay films (and he does again return in a fun cameo), Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah have more than proven themselves, and I think I may like their take on this franchise even better. It’s more of a fully formed idea – similar to the more cohesive reworking the Mission Impossible films took after three standalones.

Viewers would do well to refamiliarize themselves with Marcus’s son-in-law Reggie, who’s been a very minor returning character thus far. You might remember him as the butt of one of the funniest gags in Bad Boys 2 – he’s the well-mannered kid who shows up for a date with Marcus’s daughter Megan and gets promptly terrorized for it – but remains respectful and humble throughout the berating. In Bad Boys for Life, he made a surprising return, marrying Megan and fathering their child.

In Ride or Die, Reggie finally gets his due, not only by being its most endearing characters but by getting some of the film’s most fist-pumping, crowd-pleasing, spotlight-stealing scenes. If you didn’t love Reggie before, you surely will by the time the credits roll.

Reggie began as a joke but he was a character with untapped potential. In a way, he represents the El Arbi/Fallah approach in microcosm: These filmmakers have a lot of genuine love for the movies that came before, even for what might seem like a very minor character, and they’ve built on that foundation to fashion something special and arguably even better.

Bad Boy: Ride or Die opens Friday June 7.

– A/V Out

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