Rating: ***

Where there is a Will, there is a way out. The supremely engaging Will Smith is back. His incurably popular Bad Boys franchise is on to its fourth instalment. Entitled Bad Boys: Ride Or Die,the film is crucial to Smith’s career. Would Will’s way be waylaid by the slapping incident at the Oscars in 2022? Not likely !

Smith burns up the screen with his sinewy hijinks bringing to the audience akind of high-octane entertainment that makes the desi Bad Boys, Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff, look like amateurs.

Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett are the only two cops in the Miami police force who are not seen in uniform. Why should they? Mike and Marcus make their own rules as they hurl from one crimebust to another.

In Bad Boys: Ride Or Die(the tacky title sounds like a slasher movie) the two protagonists’ age is a churning issue. The flabby beginning has Marcus suffering a heart attack, from which he emerges…ummmm…shall we say stronger and Mike’s marriage from which he emerges lovelorn and smoochy.

Smith’s Mike is of course far fitter than his partner. He is in fine shape here, in more ways than one, delivering his one-liners with a puckish panache.

Martin Lawrence as Marcus continues to overact without apology. It’s the nature of the character, what to do! His borderline-hysterical antics are genuinely funny at times, and equally annoying at other times.

The script(Chris Bremner and Will Beall) is a watchable construction of demystified screen heroism: Mike and Marcus are no longer the invincible heroes they once used to be. They are older and…I am not sure if they are any wiser.

The USP of Bad Boys has always been the insouciant infantility of the two heroes, here carried to an extreme of homophobic humour as the blustering Marcus repeatedly draws attention to his deep, multi-life bonding with Mike…all done with a chuckle and a wink of course.

Yes, the magic of platitudinous kinship has never been more strongly upheld in the Bad Boys series. This time the ‘Boys’(both pushing 55) must save the reputation of their beloved deceased boss (Joe Pantoliano) whose name is incriminated by criminals. Mike and Marcus must track down the main culprit before it is too late(in other words, before Part 5 comes alive).

While the plotline is wafer-thin and ridiculously reliant on extraneous pressures to get bulked up, it is the casual swagger that the two leading men being to their parts, that does the trick.

There is a third hero this time, a young new recruit to the fun, Jacob Scipio who plays Armando, Mike’s son from his previous marriage. Armando’s journey from prisoner to fugitive provides the plot with the ideal pretext to walk through its inbuilt cliches without seeming tired.

The plot is leaden with twists and turns, some unexpected, others just the way we expect it to be in this reassuringly familiar franchise. Anyhow we never feel the burden of over-statement.

I must point out that the archvillain is not the least as formidable as we expect him to be. The world has moved on. The bad guys are no more the menacing archetypes they used to be. Everyone is in this for fun.

Watch out for Marcus’ marine-trained unsmiling son-in-law Reggie. He is a killer.

Admittedly some portions of this , the fourth instalment of the Bad Boys franchise are clunky. But the fun of its is to enjoy the ride even when it gets bumpy.