2014, R, 100 mins.
2014, R, 100 mins.
Kevin Hart as Ben / Tika Sumpter as Angela / Ice Cube as James / John Leguizamo as Santiago / Bruce McGill as Lt. Brooks
Directed by Tim Story / Written by Greg Coolidge, Jason Mantzoukas, Phil Hay, and Matt Manfredi
Iíve seen so many bloody versions of the buddy/cop film that, at this stage in my life, it will take a really special kind of genre film like it to win me over.
Alas, RIDE ALONG is
not one of those films. Itís
a police procedural/action comedy that feels, all throughout its running
time, like it were made of spare and regurgitated factory parts from
countless other similar films that came before it, and better ones at
that. At face value, I can
certainly see what the makers were attempting here Ė an amusingly
retooled version of TRAINING DAY Ė but there are very little attempts
here to brazenly stray away from worn-out and overused formulas and
conventions. That, and for a
buddy/cop action comedy, RIDE ALONG is criminally bereft of actual laughs
achingly familiar and contrived story concerns two would-be
brothers-in-law, James Payton (Ice Cube) and Ben Barber (Kevin Hart), the
former being a trash talking, no-nonsense, and rule breaking Atlanta cop
that has been desperately trying to track a nefarious crime kingpin known
as ďOmarĒ for years without many leads.
Predictably, as is the case with an infinite number of previous cop
films, Jamesí lieutenant (Bruce McGill) is one of those obligatory
ďhates his rebellious underlinesĒ authority figures that is very prone
to taking James off the case at a momentís notice.
Now, as for Ben, heís a motor-mouthed, insecure, and bumbling
security guard with aspirations of making it on the police force.
He also happens to be seriously dating Jamesí sister, Angela
(Tika Sumpter), and wishes to prove his worth to James before asking for
her hand in marriage.
course, proving his worth means further proving that he has what it takes to make
it as a police officer, and by all accounts, Ben barely seems capable of
holding a gun, let alone firing one. James decides that perhaps the best way for Ben to show his
true colors would be to allow for him to join him on a ride along
for one day as James prowls the streets for crooks and, in particular,
more clues as to Omarís next move and whereabouts.
Without missing a storytelling beat, the whole ride along seems to
be one sabotaging ploy by James after another to quickly discredit Benís worthiness,
but Jamesí plan to make Ben look like a schmuck are curtailed when Omar
makes an appearance and threatens both of their lives.
I will politely get this out of the way first: I kind of like Kevin Hart. I do. Comparisons of him to a young Eddie Murphy are quite apt, as both have a dizzyingly fast-talking demeanor and mischievous energy that make them innately likeable. Iíve seen Hart carry the lionís share of hearty laughs in some previous comedies that were in desperate need of some (like last yearís GRUDGE MATCH) and he certainly has a manner of electrifying even the most comatose of scenes. Heís rather well placed opposite of the growl-heavy and perpetually stone-faced Ice Cube, who knows when to lay back in scenes and allow his on-screen partner to let loose. Ice Cubeís low simmering intensity is a nice foil to Hartís capricious tomfoolery.
for Peteís sake, why are such decent actors left to wallow in such
trite, predictable, and cockamamie odd-couple films such as this?
There are very little, if any, attempts made whatsoever to take
some interesting paths for these characters, or even some bold and
refreshing ones at that. You
just know that through the course of the narrative that the hateful and
distrustful James will have an emotional thawing towards Ben and you just
know that Ben will somehow, in ways that only he can muster, prove his worth to
the highly demanding James. Also,
you just know that James will be one of those ultra-creepy overprotective
brother figures that will cater to the every safety need of his sibling.
Oddly enough, Jamesí obsessive tendencies towards Angela are
borderline unsavory and left a bad taste in my mouth.
In this day and age, do assertive, intelligent, and independent
minded women need their brother's ďokayĒ to marry someone?
ALONG was bafflingly directed by Tim Story, who previously made the two FANTASTIC
FOUR films, so you would think that he would be able to harness
RIDE ALONGís blend of comedy and action better than he has here.
Heís not assisted at all by the screenplay, which is the product
of Ė let me count Ė not one, not two, not three, but four writers, all
of whom apparently have taken great expense at cherry picking the most
generic genre elements they could find and throw into a mixing bowl,
expecting an end result that feels brash and new. To be fair, there are a few scenes here and there that
generate some chuckles (like one sly moment at a police gun range that
builds to a moment of Ben harnessing a large shotgun with hilarious
results), but the script fails at finding any more moments of pure
innovation for the filmís talented stars.
By the time the film reaches a climax and Omarís identity is
revealed, itís supposed to elicit surprised reactions in the audience.
Yet, if one simply just looked at the filmís opening credits of
stars and paid attention to who has appeared and who hasnít, then
Omarís identity becomes painfully anti-climatic.
thing: why is this film PG-13? When
did it become a ďthingĒ in the industry for filmmakers to feel
burdened into making a more audience friendly, ticket sales supportive
genre film like this when the underlining material deserves an R-rating?
I just don't know. Perhaps
the only thing that would have made RIDE ALONG more paradoxically
tolerable would have been for it to more fully harness its inherent
tawdriness and allow its stars to really cut loose in the dialogue
department. Too much of this
film just feels pathetically watered down. I think back to classic examples of this genre that did work,
like MIDNIGHT RUN and how films like
it held nothing back in the manner its characters were colorfully and
endearingly profane. Hell, even films like last yearís THE
HEAT Ė a rare female centric version of this male dominated genre
that I greatly enjoyed Ė embraced itís R-rating like a badge of honor.
RIDE ALONE could learn a thing or two from films like it.
If you are a fan of Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, then I think that youíll find RIDE ALONG passably enjoyable. As for the rest of us that donít worship at their altars, the film is a listless and boring affair thatís instantly forgettable. Itís bland filmmaking in a paint-by-numbers kind of manner. Actually, that descriptor for RIDE ALONG is an insult to paint-by-numbers kits. Sorry. My bad.