Will Smith’s post-slap comeback

It’s probably for the best, too, that there aren’t any postmodern jokes about Mike getting worked up and slapping someone – but if you squint, you can just about spot some references to Smith’s recent history. Mike’s bride, Christine (Melanie Liburd), doesn’t have any personality or back story of her own, but she does get to announce: “I met you at your lowest, but there was a fire in you that was extraordinary.” Smith himself is unusually restrained. Lawrence has the lead role on this occasion, and while he gurns and clowns with impressive gusto, he also gets more than his share of action heroics. Mike is no more than a grumpy straight man who suffers from guilt-induced panic attacks (when the scriptwriters remember to include them). Could these be a reference to Smith’s own issues?

I suspect that they are, but, again, Bad Boys: Ride or Die is not exactly a thoughtful character study. After the surreal business of Marcus’s near-death experience, it becomes a typical by-the-numbers cop thriller, with lots of helicopters, explosions and noisy, video game-style shoot-outs, and a crowd of interchangeable sidekicks who will mean nothing to anyone who can’t recall the previous Bad Boys films in minute detail.

What kicks it all off is that the detectives’ boss, Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano), is accused of being in the pocket of a drugs cartel, despite the small matter of his being murdered in Bad Boys for Life. Mike and Marcus are determined to clear the late Captain’s name, with the help of some cryptic messages he recorded before his death, but that means teaming up with his murderer, who happens to be Mike’s son (Jacob Scipio). I should probably mention that Miami’s handsome and well-groomed prospective mayor (Ioan Gruffudd) is at Mike’s wedding, so some viewers may suspect that he is in on the conspiracy.

Critics are sometimes told that we shouldn’t analyse Hollywood blockbusters, we should just switch off our brains and enjoy them. Well, not many films are as dependent on our brains being on standby as Bad Boys: Ride or Die. The plot is nonsensical, the grenade-dodging stunts are even more nonsensical, and the internal logic is non-existent: the assertion that Marcus has to avoid stressful situations after his heart attack is forgotten within 30 seconds. But the film is fun enough in its chaotic, grungy, rough and ready way. It may not propel Smith back to the top of the A-list, but it proves that he can get through a B-movie. At this stage in his career, that counts as a win.

★★☆☆☆

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